-- Catholic News Agency
Cuban Dissident Was Murdered, Companion Claims
HAVANA, CUBA, August 6 (CNA) .- A Spanish national who accompanied Cuban dissident leader Oswaldo Paya on the day that he died, has charged that the death was not an accident, but a deliberate act by the Cuban secret service.
Claims that Paya died in a car accident were "the perfect alibi to cover up the death of the only opposition figure that could have the lead the transition in Cuba," ┴ngel Carromero told the newspaper El Mundo in an interview published August 5.
Contrary to these accounts, Carromero said, Paya survived the collision with a government vehicle that forced them off the road.
"I am sure that he was alive after the accident," he said. "The nurses and a priest assured me that all four of us were taken to the hospital."
He recalled that the four men - himself, Paya, Harold Cepero, and Swiss national Jens Aron - were on their way to Santiago that day in the summer of 2012, and said "we had already been followed three different times on the way."
"In Bayamo, a blue car began to follow us and harass us up close. It was so close I could see the driver's eyes in the rear view mirror. When Oswaldo saw the car he said, 'They're from the Communists, you can tell by the color of the license plate. Angel, just keep driving like normal.'"
Carromero said that the car began to ram them from behind and forced them off the road. He said that several men put him in a van with sliding doors and then he lost consciousness, later waking with a gash on his head.
As the investigation evolved, he continued, "Cuban prosecutors began fabricating evidence," while defense attorneys were not permitted to access the car or any witnesses. "It was a farce, with witnesses reciting answers written on the palms of their hands."
He added that he was only able to see his lawyer "one time the day before the trial" and spoke with him "for only 60 seconds" while a security agent was not looking.
In that brief conversation, he said that he asked if the Spanish government knew that the car crash was not an accident. "He told me yes but that I should keep to the official version, and he assured me that the government and my party were with me."
Carromero also said that while in prison, he was tortured psychologically but not physically and that he was connected to "a lot of tubes."
"I don't know what they pumped into me," he said, adding that while he was being held in Cuba, he was only allowed out of his prison cell "once every three weeks" and was able to call his mother and his best friend "once a month."
He was initially sentenced to four years in prison, but two months later, the Spanish government announced that it had reached an agreement with the Cuban government and that he would finish the rest of his sentence in Spain.
In March of this year, Carromero told the Washington Post that his time in prison in Cuba was the worst experience of his life and that the conditions were "deplorable." He said that he was heavily drugged and given a false statement to sign.
Carlos Paya, brother of Oswald, told the Spanish press that what Carromero said in the interview with El Mundo was true.
"We hope there are people who will take the step to tell what they know, both inside and outside Cuba...The truth has to come out not only for the sake of justice but so that the impunity will end," he said, adding that "the regime wants to annihilate the peaceful opposition."
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