BAYAMO, Cuba (CBSMiami/AP) — A Spanish man held in Cuba went on trial Friday in connection with a car crash in which prominent dissident Oswaldo Paya was killed, and several government opponents, including dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, were detained in the eastern city where the proceedings were taking place.
A family member says Sanchez, her husband and another blogger, were arrested in the city of Bayamo. The newspaper Sanchez was working for also reported it on its website.
Human rights monitor Elizardo Sanchez in Havana also reported a least a half-dozen other dissidents in and around Bayamo were also detained.
Sanchez’s blog “Generation Y” gets about a million hits a month.
Time magazine named Sanchez one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2008.
The government has not confirmed the detentions and rarely does in such cases.
As for the trial, Angel Carromero is accused of speeding in the crash that killed Oswalda Paya and Harold Cepero. Authorities have charged him with the equivalent of vehicular manslaughter, which carries a possible penalty of up to 10 years under Cuban law. In videotaped statements, the Spaniard has said he lost control upon driving into an unpaved section of road, and the vehicle skidded into a tree.
His defense argued Friday that it was impossible to determine the exact velocity of the vehicle, and asked for him to be released to house arrest.
“We will see how it all comes out. We are optimistic,” said Spanish consul Tomas Rodriguez, who was observing the trial.
Carromero, who is affiliated with a youth wing of Spain’s ruling conservative party, and Swede Aron Modig, also a political activist in his home country, had traveled to Cuba to support the island’s dissident community.
They were driving to eastern Cuba with Paya and Cepero in the back seats when the crash happened. The Europeans, who were in the front and wearing seatbelts, were not seriously injured.
Modig returned to Sweden a little over a week after the accident.
Paya, 60, was famous for leading the Varela Project, a petition that gathered thousands of signatures calling for a referendum on rights such as freedom of speech and assembly.
The European Union awarded Paya its Sakharov human rights prize in 2002 in recognition of the project.
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