Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Paya case going nowhere in Spanish courts

The effort to have Spanish courts take on the case of Oswaldo Paya is not going well.

Paya’s family asked Spanish courts to commute the sentence of Angel Carromero, the Spanish Partido Popular activist who drove the car in which Paya and fellow dissident Harold Cepero were killed last July.  A judge turned down that request.  The final decision rests with the government, which does not seem disposed to commute.

Separately, the family asked a court to re-investigate the case and find two Cuban officials guilty of murder based on Carromero’s charge that his car was rammed and driven off the road.  Last week, a court turned down that request too (background here, see also article in El Pais, the judge’s decision, and EFE in English).  The family indicated that it would appeal the decision.

I don’t know how much room for maneuver the Spanish courts and executive would have in this case in the event that they were to find the family’s political and legal arguments convincing.  What comes through in these decisions is that in bringing Carromero home under the bilateral prisoner exchange agreement, the Spanish government – and, apparently, by extension its courts – seems to have accepted the Cuban verdict on Carromero as a settled matter (“firme”) and finds no reason, no basis, and no jurisdiction to re-open the case.  In last week’s decision, the judge said it would be “abusive” to assert Spanish courts are competent to re-investigate. 

Abusive or not, and taking Spain and Cuba out of the equation, it is hard to see how any  prisoner exchange agreement could function if one party would use it to bring prisoners home and then declare the foreign verdicts invalid and release the prisoners. 

One can’t fault Carromero for wanting to get out of jail in Cuba and go home.  But by coming home under that agreement he appears to have wrecked any chance he might have had to make his case in Spanish courts.  If his idea from the beginning was to charge that his car was rammed – something he only began to say after months back in Spain – then it seems that the place to make that argument would have been in Cuba, with whatever risk that would entail.  The Washington Post rises above all this to argue that Spanish courts have every reason to take up the case.

In this new radio interview, Carromero says that had he done so, he “might not have gotten out alive and my message would not have gotten out of the island.”  He reminds listeners that he was “only 26” when all this happened, and he whines about how he was covered in the Spanish media.  Based on that coverage, he said, he decided to give his first public statement to the Washington Post editorial page.  Asked why his companion, Swedish activist Aron Modig, has offered no support and no statements, Carromero says little and notes that Modig has “mysteriously” left politics.  The interview by Luis del Pino also provides fodder for those who argue that behind Carromero’s statements there is an intra-party rivalry playing out between Carromero’s champion Esperanza Aguirre and Prime Minister Rajoy, who is being accused of passivity and appeasement.

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