Friday, June 30, 2006

Belgian woman given a 3 year sentence in Cuba for traffic accident

Belgian woman given a 3 year sentence in Cuba for traffic accident

Elke Willemsen, 3 years old, worked as a tourist guide in Cuba.
While driving near Varadero a tire on her car exploded making her lose
control of the car and in the ensuing accident a 73 year old Cuban man died.

That was the start of her ordeal.
After first being convicted to 3 years in jail, on appeal she was now
sentenced to a "conditional" sentence of 3 years. She is not to go to
jail, but is not allowed to leave the country.

When asked whether they felt their daughter got a fair trial in
February, they replied:

"Absolutely not. A tourist in front of a court is a complete show in
Cuba. The whole village came to see the spectacle. That has probably
turned the judge's head. Our daughter did have a decent lawyer,
president of the local bar to no avail. Immediately after the accident a
blood sample was taken which showed that our daughter had not been
drinking. Witnesses also stated that the accident was not her fault.
Notwithstanding this evidence the judge gave her such a harsh sentence:
three years prison, though no fine. ''

On appeal this sentence has now been turned in to a "suspended sentence
for three years", but Elke is not allowed to leave the country during
that period. She is a virtual prisoner on the island as the result of an
accident that was in no way her fault.
She is currently staying with friends near Varadero and is said to be
depressed and suffering weight loss.

Local initiatives have been started to support Elke and her family
including the launch of a CD the profits of which will go to Elke.

Another Belgian citizen, Nick Debuck, has also been detained in Cuba
after a car accident.

Source: (Dutch)

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