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TMCNet:  Driver in Oswaldo Paya case to serve rest of his sentence in Spain

[December 14, 2012]

Driver in Oswaldo Paya case to serve rest of his sentence in Spain

MIAMI, Dec 14, 2012 (The Miami Herald - McClatchy-Tribune News Service via COMTEX) -- The widow of Havana dissident Oswaldo Paya said Friday she's glad that Spanish politician Angel Carromero will leave his Cuban jail but has little hope that he will clear up allegations surrounding her husband's death in a car crash when he returns to Madrid.


"We have never blamed Carromero for the accident," said the widow, Ofelia Acevedo, who maintains that government security agents may have caused the crash and then forced the Spaniard to keep quiet on the promise of letting him out of jail early.

Cuban and Spanish officials announced Friday that Carromero will be moved to a Spanish jail to serve the remainder of his four-year sentence for vehicular homicide in the deaths of Paya, founder of the Christian Liberation Movement, and youth branch leader Harold Cepero.

The Spaniard was at the wheel of a rented car carrying Paya, Cepero and Swedish politician Jens Aaron Modig when it crashed July 22 in eastern Cuba, killing the two Cubans. Carromero and Modig, both 27, suffered only minor injuries.

Cuban officials say the Spaniard lost control of the car and crashed into a tree. Paya's family is demanding an independent investigation, saying there's evidence he was forced off the road by another car, presumably carrying State Security agents who always monitored Paya.

Carromero and Modig, who returned to Stockholm a week after the accident, have not spoken about the second car to win a quick release for the Spaniard, according to Paya relatives and supporters on the island and abroad.

"We are happy that he can leave Cuba, that he can end his kidnapping here," Acevedo told The Miami Herald in a phone interview from Havana. "But we're not renouncing our demand for an independent investigation. We do not accept the government version, because we're convinced that it did not happen that way." Once out of Cuba, the Spaniard may tell the full truth about the accident, she added, "although I also would not be surprised at all that he would maintain total silence on the issue ... There are other interests and other powers that evidently don't want the truth to come out." Paya's daughter, Rosa Maria, said in a statement emailed to journalists that once freed, Carromero should explain reports that Modig used his cellphone to send text messages to friends in Sweden reporting their car had been rammed from behind by another vehicle.

She also noted that the Cuban government has yet to give her family a copy of her father's autopsy, and has not given Cepero's relatives the SIM cards from the two cellular phones he was carrying, which might show whether he made any calls immediately before or after the car crash.

"We are glad for Angel and his family, and we hope that from Madrid he will help to clarify the truth, the truth for which we work and for which we will never stop seeking," Rosa Maria concluded.

Paya's representative in Spain, Regis Iglesias, sent a Twitter message Friday saying, "Oswaldo and Harold murdered. Angel and Aaron back home ... Spain in dishonorable silence." Modig did not return phone calls and emails seeking comment for this story.

(EDITORS: STORY CAN END HERE) Carromero and Modig are activists in the youth wings of conservative parties _ the Popular Party in Spain and Sweden's Christian Democratic Party. The Cuban government alleges that they went to the island on tourist visas to deliver money to dissidents.

Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told journalists in Madrid on Friday that Cuban and Spanish officials had met Wednesday in Havana and agreed to the return home of Carromero. A Cuban foreign ministry statement confirmed the agreement.

No date was given for his return, although the EFE news agency quoted Spanish diplomats in Havana as saying they hoped Carromero would be home before the end of the year. Another Spaniard serving an 18-year drug sentence in Cuba also will be transferred to a Spanish jail.

The two countries signed an agreement in 1998 that allow their citizens to serve prison terms in their own countries, but it is not known how many times it has been used.

Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo of Spain met twice with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez in November to discuss the Carromero case but has maintained diplomatic silence on the case before and after the meeting.

A post Friday on the Christian Liberation Movement's Facebook page reflected the belief of many Paya supporters that the Spanish government agreed to cover up the Cuban involvement in the fatal crash in order to get Carromero out of prison quickly.

"From the start, and despite having information about the crime, the Spanish government used the strategy of 'self-blame,'" the post noted. "Now it must accept that an innocent person ... serve a sentence in Spain for a crime he did not commit." ___ (c)2012 The Miami Herald Visit The Miami Herald at www.miamiherald.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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