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Dissident Cuban blogger arrested, colleagues say

By the CNN Wire Staff
October 5, 2012 -- Updated 1702 GMT (0102 HKT)
Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, pictured here in 2011, was reportedly arrested as she traveled to cover a trial in eastern Cuba.
Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, pictured here in 2011, was reportedly arrested as she traveled to cover a trial in eastern Cuba.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The United States is "deeply disturbed" by reports of the arrest
  • Yoani Sanchez was headed to Bayamo, Cuba, to cover a trial
  • Activists and the newspaper who hired her say she was arrested
  • A Spanish politician is on trial for vehicular homicide for a wreck that killed two

(CNN) -- Cuban authorities detained dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez along with two others as she traveled to cover the trial of a Spanish politician accused of killing a prominent dissident, a human rights activist told CNN on Friday.

A family member of the well-known blogger said that Sanchez, her husband, Reinaldo Escobar, and another blogger, Agustin Diaz, were arrested in the eastern Cuban city of Bayamo on Thursday, activist and dissident Elizardo Sanchez told CNN en Español.

Yoani Sanchez and her two companions were destined for Bayamo, where the trial of Spanish politician Angel Carromero was scheduled to begin Friday. She was covering the trial for Spain's leading newspaper, El Pais, which also reported on its website that she had been detained.

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But Sanchez never arrived at her destination, and her cell phone was disconnected, Elizardo Sanchez said.

CNN has not independently confirmed the arrests. Cuban officials declined to comment on reports of her arrest.

A pro-government blogger known as Yohandry Fontana, who is considered a counterbalance to Yoani Sanchez, said that Sanchez intended to put on a "media show" in Bayamo and disrupt Carromero's trial.

The U.S. State Department called the arrest the "latest crackdown" on journalists.

"We are deeply disturbed by the Cuban government's repeated use of arbitrary detention to silence critics, disrupt peaceful assembly, and impede independent journalism," State Department spokesman William Ostick said.

Carromero is facing a vehicular homicide charge for a car crash that killed prominent Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya. He could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison if found guilty. He is accused of speeding and then losing control of a car that he, Paya, Swedish politician Jans Aron Modig and Cuban dissident Harold Cepero were traveling in.

Paya and Cepero were killed when the car struck a tree near Las Gavinas, Cuba, in July.

After Paya's death, his family immediately accused Cuban authorities of foul play and said they had received information that another vehicle had forced the car Paya was in off the road.

The Cuban government has denied any involvement in Paya's death.

El Pais said that it had lost contact with Yoani Sanchez and that a Cuban photographer, Orlando Luis Pardo, said he had spoken with her son, who had received a call from her confirming her detention.

Sanchez gained international attention for her blog "Generation Y," which gets about 1 million hits a month.

Freedom of speech is limited on the communist island nation, whose media is controlled by the government.

"The arrest of these journalists clearly indicates that the Cuban government continues its practice of punishing independent reporting," said Carlos Lauria, senior Americas program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists. "Cuban authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Sanchez, Escobar and Díaz and allow all Cuban reporters to report without fear of intimidation."

In 2008, Time magazine named Sanchez one of the world's 100 most influential people.

CNN's Carlos Montero contributed to this report.

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