A Cuban court sentenced Spanish citizen Angel Carromero to four years behind bars on a charge of negligent homicide for a car crash that claimed the lives of prominent dissident Oswaldo Paya and an associate, the official Web site Cubadebate said Monday.

The sentence was less than the seven years sought by prosecutors during Carromero's Oct. 5 trial in the eastern city of Bayamo.

"Considering the gravity of the incident, in which the regrettable deaths of two people were caused by the reckless driving of Carromero Barrios, the court has imposed a sentence of four years' imprisonment," the note released by Cubadebate said.

Both the defense and the prosecution have the option to appeal.

Carromero, the 27-year-old leader of a youth group in Spain's governing Popular Party, had an accident while driving a rented car last July 22 near Bayamo.

Riding in the car was Paya, 60, and fellow dissident Harold Cepero, who died when it crashed into a tree.

Another of the passengers was Swedish political activist Jens Aron Modig, who like Carromero suffered slight injuries and who was authorized to leave the island several days later.

Paya was the promoter of the Varela Project, which he presented to Cuba's legislature in 2002 along with some 11,000 signatures to propose a referendum on a democratic and peaceful transition on the Communist-ruled island.

The petition was rejected by the regime, but Paya emerged as the leading advocate of peaceful democratic change in Cuba.

Paya's family has always questioned the official version of the traffic accident and did not file a criminal complaint against Carromero. EFE