Cuba tries Angel Carromero over Oswaldo Paya death

Angel Carromero (C) is brought to trial in Bayamo, Cuba, 5 Oct 2012 Mr Carromero (C) expressed "profound sorrow" for the accident

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Spanish national Angel Carromero has gone on trial in Cuba accused of manslaughter over the death of high-profile dissident Oswaldo Paya.

Mr Carromero has been in custody since 22 July when a car he was driving hit a tree and crashed, killing Mr Paya and another Cuban activist, Harold Cepero.

The trial was held in Bayamo, east of the capital Havana. The date of the court verdict is yet to be announced.

A dissident blogger was arrested on her way to the trial and later released.

The blogger, Yoani Sanchez, is known for highlighting issues affecting young Cubans on the communist-run island.

The pro-government blog Yohandry.com said she was arrested on Thursday evening with her husband because they planned a "provocation" and "media show" that could endanger the credibility of the trial.

It later said she was kept in an interior ministry guest house and returned to her home in Havana on Friday in a police convoy.

The trial in Bayamo - close to where the fatal accident happened - lasted one day.

Mr Carromero, 27, the head of the youth wing of Spain's ruling Popular Party, told the court he felt "profound sorrow for the unfortunate accident that took place".

But he denied that he had been speeding at the time, as alleged by prosecutors.

"The last time that I looked at my speedometer, I was not going faster than 80 or 90km/h (50-55mph)," he said.

"I have lost a lot during this time, and I'm going to lose even more, but nothing in comparison with the pain felt by the families involved."

'Optimistic'

Mr Carromero and a Swedish activist were injured in the crash. Prosecutors are seeking a seven-year term for vehicular manslaughter.

Spanish consul Tomas Rodriguez, who was observing the trial, said: "We will see how it all comes out. We are optimistic."

Oswaldo Paya's family has disputed the circumstances around the 60-year-old's death and has alleged the vehicle was deliberately forced off the road.

Mr Paya was best known as the founder of the Varela project, a campaign begun in 1998 to gather signatures in support of a referendum on laws guaranteeing civil rights.

The UK-based human rights group Amnesty International criticised the "arbitrary arrests" of Ms Sanchez and her husband, and called for an end to restrictions on free expression in Cuba.

The US State Department also condemned the arrests.

"We are very deeply disturbed by the Cuban government's repeated use of arbitrary detention to silence critics, disrupt peaceful assembly and certainly to impede independent journalism," said spokesman Mark Toner.

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