Defense Lawyer: Western Standards Not Met in Trial Over Death of Cuban Dissident Payá Reply

New details on the case involving the death of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá case emerged after convicted Spanish politician returns home.

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

An attorney for Angel Carromero, the Spanish politician convicted in the car crash that killed Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, said his trial was not fair by western standards, while his political mentor denied that Cuba was paid $3 million for his freedom.

One of Payá’s brothers, meanwhile, said another Spanish politician who visited Cuba prior to Carromero’s trip this summer told him that a car he believes was driven by security agents rammed his vehicle, just as security agents allegedly did to Carromero’s vehicle. Carromero flew home Saturday under a 1998 pact that allows citizens of Cuba and Spain to serve prison sentences in their home countries. He was sentenced to four years for speeding and causing the July 22 car crash that killed Payá and fellow dissident Harold Cepero. His arrival in Madrid unleashed a string of reports and details about the crash and the trial previously kept under wraps to avoid upsetting the Cuban government and perhaps aggravating the charges against him, his sentence or prison conditions.

“Everyone always said that when Carromero was out of Cuba the truth will be known. Well, it’s time to take off the gag,” Carlos Payá, a brother and physician who lives in Spain, told El Nuevo Herald on Monday in a telephone interview. Payá’s relatives maintain that a state security car rammed the vehicle driven by Carromero and carrying Payá, Cepero and Swedish politician Jens Aron Modig just before it crashed into a tree. Authorities said Payá was not wearing a seatbelt. The two Europeans suffered only minor injuries.

Carlos Payá said Pablo Vives, an activist in the Popular Party, the same conservative party that Carromero belongs to, told him that a state security car had rammed his car during his own visit to Cuba to meet with dissidents. Vives could not be immediately contacted for comment. Carromero’s Spanish lawyer, José María Viñals Camallonga, asked about the allegation that another vehicle rammed his client’s car, replied, “I don’t have enough facts to reach any conclusion, and (Carromero) himself says during his trial that he does not recall.” Viñals also told the ABC newspaper in Madrid on Sunday that he and the Cuban defense attorneys were not given access to the car or the stretch of road in eastern Cuba involved in the crash, and were not allowed to call independent accident investigators as witnesses.

Asked whether the half-day trial held behind closed doors — Payá’s widow and daughter were not allowed to attend — as fair, Viñals said it “scrupulously” followed Cuban law but did not meet the standards used in Spain and the European Union. The Christian Liberation Movement that Payá founded, commenting on Viñals’ declarations, issued a statement calling the trial a “judicial farce.” In a string of weekend interviews with journalists after Carromero’s arrival in Madrid, Carlos Payá also claimed that the Spanish Foreign Ministry at one point offered “indemnization” to the widow, Ofelia Acevedo. Under Cuban law, she could have filed her own charge against Carromero, and perhaps preempted a charge from prosecutors. “The plan was this simple: Ofelia Acevedo accuses, Ofelia Acevedo receives an indemnization, case closed and in 72 hours (Carromero) is home,” the brother said. The family refused, he said, because it wants the full truth to emerge. Zoom News, a digital newspaper based in Madrid, meanwhile reported that Carromero was allowed to leave Cuba only after secret negotiations between family representatives and “unofficial Cuban agents” agreed to a payment of $3 million. It gave no further details on the payment.

Carromero, 27, and the Popular Party also had to promise that they will keep silent about the real cause of the crash, Zoom News added, noting that it received the information from sources unidentified but “directly involved in the negotiations.” Spain’s consul general in Cuba, Tomás Rodríguez Pantoja, also was forced to sign a document affirming that Carromero’s trial had been just and fair, according to the report. Carromero’s long-time political mentor, Pablo Casado, declared, however, that his release “did not involve any payment whatsoever, and was the result of a diplomatic success” by Spain’s Foreign Ministry.

Casado, who heads the Madrid section of the Popular Party’s youth wing, and Esperanza Aguirre, president of the Popular Party in Madrid, drove Carromero’s mother to visit him Sunday in the Segovia Penitentiary Center prison 60 miles northwest of Madrid. Only the mother was allowed to visit him, and Aguirre afterwards read to journalists a letter for Carromero saying that “the suffering you bore from a communist dictatorship will strengthen you and will make your commitment to the defense of freedom grow.” Cuban government officials alleged that Carromero and Modig, a youth leader of the Swedish Christian Democratic party, went to Cuba to deliver cash assistance to Payá and other dissidents.

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