Daughter of killed Cuban activist wants international inquiry

(Photo: Wikipedia)The late Pope John Paul II meeting Oswaldo Payá, a Cuban Sakharov Prize winner and dissident. Picture is undated.

The daughter of the founder of Cuba's Christian Liberation Movement killed in a mysterious car crash last year was able to fly from Havana to a Geneva human rights summit to call for an international inquiry into her father's death.

Rosa Maria Payá, a 23-year-old activist, joined other dissidents and activists from Iran, Tibet, Syria and China, at Tuesday's 5th Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. In her speech she called for an inquiry into the death of her father Oswaldo Payá.

Payá, a Roman Catholic, founded the Christian Liberation Movement, known by its Spanish acronym MCL (Movimiento Cristiano Liberación) in 1988 along with a group of secular Catholics from Havana's Cerro parish.

"My father and a young friend gave their lives for freedom. My family and our movement do not believe their deaths were accidental.

"My father got many death threats in his life which increased in the last month of his life. We got information that his car was hit by another car. We want an impartial international investigation into their death," said Rosa Maria Payá.

Although given a passport under what Cuba says are reforms, she said the recent changes in Cuban had made some improvements for some people "but they are just designed to keep the current regime in power."

Oswaldo Payá became internationally known for organizing a signature campaign known as the Varela Project.

It petitioned the Cuban government to guarantee freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and to institute a multi-party democracy.

The Cuban government stated about the car accident last year that the driver had lost control of the car and collided with a tree. Payá's children have consistently said the car had been deliberately run off of the road.

The Geneva Human Rights Summit met on Feb. 19, one week before foreign ministers assemble in Geneva to open the annual session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The cross-regional coalition of 20 human rights groups gathered dissidents and democracy activists in a bid to focus attention on urgent situations of gross human rights abuse.

The conference's main sponsoring group UN Watch has frequently criticized the composition of the HRC with some countries that it says are totalitarian.

Survivors of North Korean concentration camps spoke as well as speakers from Cuba, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Sudan, Syria, and Tibet, meeting in a concerted effort to influence the U.N. human rights agenda.

The speakers addressed discrimination against women, the jailing of journalists, prison camps, Internet freedom, religious intolerance, and the persecution of human rights defenders.

Cuban poet, political activist and former political prisoner, Régis Iglesias Ramírez who was arrested in 2003 and sentenced to 18 years in prison on anti-state charges spoke at the summit.

He joined the MCL in 1989. Along with Oswaldo Paya and Antonio Diaz, he took part in the drafting of the 11,000 signature petition presented to the Cuban government urging reforms.

He was arrested in March 2003 and sentenced to 18 years in prison along with 74 peaceful Cuban opponents. Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience.

In August 2010 he was exiled to Spain directly from prison and he now lives in Madrid as a political refugee.

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