American jailed in Cuba plans suicide, lawyer says

HAVANA Wed Jun 25, 2014 6:03pm EDT

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HAVANA (Reuters) - A U.S. foreign aid contractor jailed in Cuba is planning suicide as his health declines and he grows increasingly depressed, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

Alan Gross, 65, has served 4-1/2 years of his 15-year sentence for illegally attempting to establish an online network for Jews in Havana as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"He has said to me that he’s going to do something drastic if he doesn’t get home very soon, and I believe him. He’s very depressed," his wife, Judy Gross, told Reuters in Havana.

"He said, 'I was here working for the U.S. government. My government has abandoned me.'"

Gross, making her sixth visit to see her imprisoned husband, and their lawyer, Scott Gilbert, renewed their call for U.S. President Barack Obama to become more involved in securing his release.

"Both governments need to know that Alan plans to end his life in an effort to end this agony," Gilbert said in a statement.

Gross previously vowed not to spend another year in jail.

Judy Gross said her husband appeared worse than ever during a three-hour visit on Tuesday, and when asked if he was planning suicide she said, "I don’t think I want to know" but that she would "try to talk him out of it."

She plans to see him again on Thursday.

Gross has lost more than 100 pounds (46 kg), has failing vision in one eye and problems with both hips, Gilbert said. He went on an eight-day hunger strike in April and began eating again at the urging of his dying mother.

Evelyn Gross, 92, died last week, adding to her husband's depression, Judy Gross said.

"He was just devastated he couldn’t say goodbye," she said.

Her husband spends 23 hours a day inside a 12-foot-by-12-foot (4-meter-by-4-meter) cell that he shares with two other inmates, Judy Gross said.

Cuba says he is kept in humane conditions.

Judy Gross said she found hope in the recent trade of five Taliban suspects for U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who had been a captive for five years in Afghanistan, even though Bergdahl's case provoked an angry backlash from members of Congress.

Some of Bergdahl's former comrades have charged he was captured after deserting his post, adding to the outrage in Washington.

"If the U.S. can do that, I’m sure they can find a way to get Alan," Judy Gross said. "I don’t think that the U.S. should leave any American behind."

Cuba has sought to link Gross' incarceration to the cases of the so-called Cuban Five, unregistered agents who were convicted in the United States for spying on Cuban exile groups in Florida. Two of the five have been released.

The U.S. government has rejected any trade of the Cuban agents for Gross.

(Editing by David Adams, Doina Chiacu and Jonathan Oatis)

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