U.S. calls for release of American jailed in Cuba

Mon Dec 2, 2013 8:10pm EST

Judy Gross, (C) the wife of Alan Gross a U.S. contractor jailed in Cuba for crimes against the state, speaks a rally for her husband's release in West Palm Beach, Florida November 11, 2012. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Judy Gross, (C) the wife of Alan Gross a U.S. contractor jailed in Cuba for crimes against the state, speaks a rally for her husband's release in West Palm Beach, Florida November 11, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Joe Skipper

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(Reuters) - The United States called on Monday for the immediate release of an American contractor jailed for the past four years in Cuba, saying his continued captivity on the communist-ruled island was "gravely disappointing."

"Tomorrow, development worker Alan Gross will begin a fifth year of unjustified imprisonment in Cuba," the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

"It is gravely disappointing, especially in light of its (Cuba's) professed goal of providing Cubans with Internet access, that the Cuban government has not allowed Mr. Gross to return to his family, where he belongs."

Gross was arrested in Havana on December 3, 2009, for his work on a semi-covert U.S. program promoting political change on the island. Cuba has said it considered the work to be subversive.

Gross said he was in Cuba to set up communications equipment to give unrestricted Internet access to Jewish groups. A judge said that activity was a crime against the Cuban state and sentenced Gross to 15 years behind bars.

"Mr. Gross is a 64-year-old husband, father, and dedicated professional with a long history of providing aid to under- served communities in more than 50 countries. We reiterate our call on the Cuban government, echoing foreign leaders and even Cuba's allies, to release Alan Gross immediately and unconditionally," the State Department said.

Gross's wife, Judy, will hold a vigil in Washington's Lafayette Park, across from the White House, at midday on Tuesday to press for help from President Barack Obama to win her husband's release, a lawyer for the Gross family told Reuters.

The vigil would be led by Jewish Council leaders and was to include the broadcast of a video recording from Gross, who has personally written to the president seeking his intervention in the case, said the lawyer, Scott Gilbert.

"Our view is that unless President Obama becomes personally involved in this matter, Alan Gross will die in jail."

Gilbert said Cuba had agreed to sit down with U.S. government officials, without any pre-conditions, to discuss possible terms leading to Gross's release and return home. But the State Department has rejected any negotiated settlement of the Gross case out of hand.

"It's a great puzzlement to me why no decisive action has been taken on Alan Gross, particularly when Alan is imprisoned in Cuba solely because of his work on a U.S. government project," Gilbert said.

The Gross case has often been described as an obstacle to any serious improvement in U.S. relations with Cuba after more than 50 years of hostility.

(Writing by Tom Brown; Additional reporting by David Adams; editing by Christopher Wilson)

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Comments (2)
DC1945 wrote:
Gross was covertly acting as an agent of foreign government for political purposes. This is illegal in Cuba, and in the USA. Under the US Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, an unregistered foreign agent can be fined and jailed for nothing more than trying to influence public opinion on any matter of government policy, never mind trying to overthrow that government, as in Gross’s case.

Dec 02, 2013 10:04pm EST  --  Report as abuse
jmcauliff wrote:
Time for the US Government to accept responsibility for the illegal actions of its paid agent and negotiate with Cuba as asked by Alan and Judy Gross and two-thirds of the Senate. Refusing to do so perpetuates the arrogance of sending him to Cuba in the first place. No one gave us the right to unilaterally tell other countries how they should organize their society.

John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development

Dec 03, 2013 2:26pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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