Spanish judge throws out Payá family lawsuit

A Spanish judge has rejected a lawsuit against Cuban security officials filed by relatives of the late Havana dissident Oswaldo Payá, arguing that Spanish politician Angel Carromero already has declared himself responsible for the death of the democracy activist.

Judge Eloy Velasco also ruled that the death of Payá, founder of the Christian Liberation Movement, in a car crash last summer did not amount to a crime against humanity, and that the Spanish government also had already accepted that the crash was an accident.

Payá’s brother Carlos, a Madrid doctor, said Monday that he could not comment on the ruling until he consulted with the family lawyer. Velasco’s decision was published in several Madrid news outlets, apparently before lawyer Francisco Andujar Ramírez received a copy.

The lawsuit alleges that a Cuban State Security vehicle rammed a car driven by Carromero and forced it to crash, killing Payá and fellow dissident Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012. Carromero and Swedish politician Jens Aron Modig suffered minor injuries.

A Cuban court found Carromero was speeding, lost control of his rented car and crashed on his own. He was convicted of vehicular homicide and sentenced to four years in prison, but was freed in December to serve the rest of his sentence in Spain.

Velasco ruled that Carromero accepted the Cuban version in a pre-trial video and during his one-day trial, and that the Spanish government had “explicitly recognized” the verdict as part of the bilateral agreement that allowed Carromero to fly home.

The allegation that the crash was caused by State Security “cannot be verified,” the judge wrote, adding that Carromero’s driving record was full of infractions and noting that Modig, who claimed to have been asleep before the crash, was not “alerted or woken up … even though (Carromero) claims they were being chased.”

The lawsuit argued that the Spanish court had jurisdiction over Payá’s death because he was a Spanish citizen and his death was a crime against humanity, due to its political overtones, but Velasco ruled the case did not meet any of the requirements for a crime against humanity.

Trying Payá’s death again before a Spanish court would amount to a kind of double jeopardy, the judge wrote in his ruling, and to having a Spanish court “review” the Cuban court’s sentence just because Payá had Spanish citizenship.

The lawsuit was filed by Payá’s widow and daughter and specifically named State Security Lt. Col. José Águilas, chief investigator for crimes against the security of the state, and a Col. Llanes, identified as the officer in charge of monitoring Payá’s dissident activities.

Velasco’s ruling closely paralleled the recommendations sent to the judge Sept. 13 by prosecutor Teresa Sandoval, who argued that the lawsuit should be spiked because both Carromero and the Spanish government had already accepted that the death was accidental.

Carromero, a Madrid leader of the youth branch of Spain’s ruling Popular Party, went to Cuba with Modig, head of the youth branch of Sweden’s Christian Democratic Party, to deliver 8,000 Euros to democracy activists on the island on behalf of a Swedish foundation.

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