Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez freed from detention
Cuban authorities released noted blogger Yoani Sanchez more than a day after she was taken into custody near the eastern city of Bayamo, where she traveled for a Spanish man's trial over a car crash that killed another prominent dissident.
Sanchez said via Twitter that authorities "deported" her and her husband back to their Havana home late Friday night, and that she had been held for 30 hours.
"We were released! Thanks to all those who raised their voices and their tweets so we were able to return home," she wrote.
Sanchez, her husband and another man were detained Thursday before they could reach Bayamo, where she said she intended to cover the trial of Spaniard Angel Carromero as a journalist. Sanchez has gained international fame - and raised the ire of island authorities - with her descriptions of daily life in Cuba on her blog Generation Y, and she also writes for Spanish newspaper El Pais.
Calls to Sanchez's cell phone were not answered Saturday, but her husband, Reinaldo Escobar, said police were polite, though they insisted the couple would not be allowed to attend the trial because their presence would be provocative. After a few hours at a detention center, they were loaded into a vehicle and driven back to Havana.
"They dropped us off in front of our building at night," Escobar said.
The detentions had been criticized by international press and human rights groups, as well as governments including Washington. Human rights monitors complain that Cuba has adopted a tactic of short-term detentions lasting a few hours or a couple of days to harass dissidents and disrupt their activities.
The Cuban government considers the island's small community of dissidents to be dangerous counterrevolutionaries bent on undermining its sovereignty, and bloggers aligned with President Raul Castro's alleged that Sanchez's real intention was to tarnish the court proceedings.
Carromero, who is affiliated with a youth wing of Spain's ruling conservative Popular Party, and a Swedish political activist traveled to the Caribbean island this summer to support dissidents. They were driving to eastern Cuba on July 22 when Carromero lost control on an unpaved section of road being repaired, and crashed into a tree.
Dissident Oswaldo Paya, famous abroad for a petition drive a decade ago demanding political change, and another government opponent were riding in the back seat and died in the accident.
Carromero's trial began and ended Friday with prosecutors seeking seven years on charges equivalent to vehicular manslaughter.
The defense argued that highway signs warning of the repairs were poor, and there was no way to be sure how fast the Spaniard was driving.
"The accused ... and his lawyer counted on all guarantees provided by the Law of Penal Procedure and presented the elements they considered favorable," according to a note published Saturday in Communist Party newspaper Granma. "At the conclusion of the judicial act, the court declared the process concluded ... and announced that it will issue its ruling in the coming days."
Sanchez wrote Saturday that she empathizes with the grief of Paya's relatives, who also said they were turned away from attending Carromero's trial.
"The saddest and most important thing is the drama that Oswaldo Paya's family is living," she tweeted. "Our arrests are NOTHING compared with that loss."
Associated Press writer Andrea Rodriguez in Havana contributed to this report.
Peter Orsi is on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/Peter-Orsi