Latin America & Caribbean

Cuba dissidents arrested after Oswaldo Paya's funeral

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Media captionHundreds paid their respects at the San Salvador Catholic Church in Havana

Cuban police have arrested several dissidents after the funeral of prominent activist Oswaldo Paya, who died in a car crash on Sunday.

Those detained include leading dissident Guillermo Farinas.

On Monday, Mr Paya's son told the BBC that he believed his father's car was forced off the road.

Cuban officials say the driver, a Spanish national, lost control and hit a tree. He is still being questioned by police.

Dissidents were picked up for questioning by plain-clothes police who had been deployed outside the church where the mass was held.

Guillermo Farinas is known for staging hunger strikes that drew attention to the plight of political prisoners in Cuba. In 2010 he was awarded the Sakharov Prize - the European Union's human rights award - which had gone to Mr Paya in 2002.

Reports say he was arrested along with other activists as they emerged from the church funeral service to go to the cemetery shouting slogans against the government.

Some of Cuba's most prominent human rights campaigners have vowed to continue fighting for democracy on the Communist island, despite the death of Mr Paya.

'Death threats'

A fellow activist, 31-year-old Harold Cepero, was also killed in the accident, in eastern Granma province.

Image caption Mr Paya was best known for his work for the Varela Project

Two other people in the car were slightly injured.

They are politicians Jens Aron Modig, 27, from Sweden and Spaniard Angel Carromero Barrios, also 27.

Mr Carromero, who was driving, has been detained and is still being questioned by police. His statements have not been made public.

Mr Paya's son, also called Oswaldo, alleges that the two survivors said they had been forced off the road by a truck that rammed their car repeatedly.

Diplomats have told Reuters news agency there is no evidence to back these allegations and that they believe it was a genuine accident.

Cuba's roads, even the motorways, are notoriously ill-kept and dangerous.

Mr Paya, 60, is 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.

In May 2002, he presented Cuba's National Assembly with a petition of more than 10,000 signatures calling for an end to four decades of one-party rule.

The Cuban government described Mr Paya as an agent of the United States who was working to undermine the country's revolution.

But the anti-Castro opposition in the US criticised him for being too moderate.