The Spanish politician accused in the deaths of Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero will go on trial Aug. 31 on a charge of vehicular homicide, according to news media reports Friday.
Madrid’s El Mundo newspaper reported that the oral part of Angel Carromero’s trial will start Aug. 31 in the eastern city of Bayamo, near the spot where the car he was driving crashed into a tree, killing the two Cuban passengers.
Relatives of Payá, a leading dissident awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize in 2002, do not believe the government version that Carromero caused the one-car accident, saying they have reports that another car forced him off the road.
Carromero’s defense will be in the hands of two Cuban female lawyers hired by his supporters in Spain’s Popular Party, with the unofficial help of a Spanish lawyer who under Cuban law cannot represent clients on the island, El Mundo added.
Prosecutors are asking for a seven year sentence — 42 months for each fatality — on a charge of vehicular homicide, alleging that Carromero was driving too fast when he crashed on July 22. El Mundo reported that its sources noted the sentence could be cut to five years.
Payá died immediately and Cepero, a member of Payá’s Christian Liberation Movement, shortly afterward. Carromero, a youth leader in the Spain’s Popular Party, and Jens Aron Modig, president of the Youth League of Sweden’s Christian Democratic Party, suffered minor injuries. Both are 27 years old.
Carromero and Modig were in Cuba to meet with Payá and other dissidents and deliver about $5,000 to the activists. They had picked up Payá and Cepero in Havana the morning of the crash for a two-day trip to eastern Cuba. Bayamo is 460 miles east of Havana.
There has been no indication of whether Cuban authorities will allow national or foreign journalists to attend Carromero’s trial, which was scheduled surprisingly quickly.
U.S. government subcontractor Alan Gross was arrested in Havana on Dec. 3, 2009, but was not put on trial until March 4, 2011. Eight days later, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for delivering three satellite telephones to Cuba’s tiny Jewish community.
Havana has all but offered to free Gross in exchange for five Cuban spies convicted in a Miami trial in 2001. The Obama administration has publicly rejected the offers and insisted that bilateral relations cannot improve until Gross is freed.
Spanish politicians have repeatedly spoken of their hopes to bring Carromero home as soon as possible after his trial.
Cuba’s penal code allows the government to decree the expulsion of any foreigner convicted of a crime. The Payá family has refused to file a legal complaint against Carromero, because they do not believe he was responsible for the crash.
Last year, Havana expelled Sebastián Martínez Ferraté, a Spaniard arrested in 2010 and sentenced to seven years in prison for corruption of minors in connection with his 2008 documentary on child prostitution in Cuba.
Carromero also could be sent to Spain to serve out his Cuban sentence under the terms of a 1998 agreement between the two nations, according to El Mundo.
The Spaniard is being held in a notorious Havana police investigations facility known by its street address as “100 and Aldabó.” He is assigned to an apartment-type cell, with air conditioning and television, which he shares with one other inmate.