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Cuban dissident's widow rejects official account of death

Monday, July 30, 2012

The widow of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya has rejected a government report that blamed the car accident that killed her husband in the driver because he was denied access to witnesses of his death.

Ofelia Acevedo criticized the government for not allowing him to speak with the two survivors of the accident, including the driver, which have remained in custody since July 22 incident in southeast Cuba.

"I reject this report, since it is the official government of Cuba and because they have not had access to this information they say they have," he told AFP. "I have no reason why this version of events."

The government insists Paya, 60, died when the rental car he was riding went out of control and hit a tree.

In a lengthy report issued Friday, the Interior Ministry, said the pilot, Spanish Angel Carromero political activist, lost control of the vehicle when suddenly the brakes on the slippery surface of a section of unpaved road, while excess speed.

Paya family, however, has said he had information that the rental car was driven off the road by another vehicle.

Acevedo said he could not talk to Carromero, 27, or other survivor, Swedish political activist Jens Aron Modig, also 27.

"They were the last people to see my husband alive and they need to know a lot more than me so far," he said.

The authorities have kept the two witnesses in custody since being discharged from hospital after being treated for injuries sustained in the accident. Both men were in Cuba on tourist visas.

Acevedo said he did not believe the government version of what Carromero said about the accident because "it has had access to the media outside the presence of state security, which has had kidnapped him since he left the hospital" .

Paya's widow said she had asked the ambassadors of Spain and Sweden to arrange for her to talk to Carromero and Modig, but "have not even been able to talk to them without the presence of state security."

Carromero, who is detained by police in a town near where the accident occurred, faces charges of traffic violations resulting in death, which can take up to 10 years imprisonment under the Penal Code of Cuba.

In Madrid, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo Carromero confirmed yet held in Cuba and could possibly be charged Monday or Tuesday after the investigation was over.

"If he were to charge, we would like to keep in our embassy, ​​in any case, the most important is to bring home" Carromero, said the Spanish minister.

Also killed in Paya, winner of the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize in 2002, was a Cuban dissident, 31 years old, Harold Cepero Escalante.

Paya, a devout Catholic, is best known for presenting the Cuban parliament in 2002 with a petition signed by 11,000 people calling for political change in Cuba.

Known as the "Varela Project" was the key initiative to open the debate in Cuba about the direction of a communist regime dominated for over half a century for Fidel Castro and his brother Raul.

Paya's death was deeply felt among the dissident community in Cuba, and authorities have been quick to respond to any protest.

About 50 people were arrested Tuesday after he left Paya's funeral in Havana, shouting slogans against the government. Most were released without charge, activists said.

Anders Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman Jorle said there was no reason Modig, which will take place in an immigration detention center in Havana, should not be allowed to return home.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights, officially illegal but tolerated by the government, urged the regime to allow the two survivors to speak publicly about the accident.

"Now that the government has given the official version, continue to insist that absolute truth will be known when the two survivors are able to make statements, without any conditions," said the group's leader, Elizardo Sanchez.

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