HAVANA (Reuters) - Nearly a year after he was detained at the Havana airport on suspicion of spying, U.S. contractor Alan Gross remains behind bars in Cuba, still under investigation and awaiting charges, Cuba’s top legal official said on Tuesday.
The case that has stalled progress in U.S.-Cuba relations is moving ahead at its own pace, with no clear date for conclusion, Attorney General Dario Delgado told reporters at a Havana conference.
“It remains in the same situation. It still hasn’t concluded. It’s still being worked and when it finishes, the answer will be given,” he said when asked about Gross, who is being held at a Havana military hospital.
Gross, 61, was detained by Cuban authorities on December 3 as he prepared to board a flight back to the United States.
Cuban officials have said he was illegally bringing in satellite communications equipment and may have been spying.
The United States government has said Gross brought in satellite phones to expand Internet access for Jewish groups in Cuba but was not a spy.
His wife Judy Gross told Reuters in a recent interview her husband had been in Cuba five times in the nine months prior to his arrest.
He was working for a Washington-area company contracted under a U.S. Agency for International Development program to promote democracy in Cuba.
Cuban leaders consider the USAID programs to be an attempt to overthrow the communist-led government.
According to Western diplomats in Havana, Cuban law required that Gross be charged with a crime within 90 days of his arrest, but that 90-day extensions could be granted.
Reportedly, Cuban authorities have requested and obtained at least three extensions.
Delgado said the long wait for charges was not unusual.
“This adheres to Cuban law. There’s no problem. Everything moves ahead as was foreseen,” he said. “It’s a normal case.”
U.S.-Cuba relations had warmed modestly under President Barack Obama, but progress halted with the arrest of Gross. The U.S. has said there would be no major initiatives with Cuba until he is freed.
Havana has suggested in various ways that it would trade Gross for five Cuban agents imprisoned in the United States, but the United States has said that is not being discussed.
Cuban authorities permitted Judy Gross to visit her husband in July, when she said he had lost a lot of weight and had various physical ailments.
When she arrived home from the visit, she learned that one of their daughters had breast cancer.
She has appealed to Cuban authorities to free her husband on humanitarian grounds so that he can help the daughter.
Also, she revealed to Reuters a letter she had written to Cuban President Raul Castro saying she and her husband were remorseful for the work he had done in Cuba.
She criticized the White House for not doing enough to free her husband.
Alan Gross also has offered to pay bail so that he can go home to be with her and to return to Cuba when required.
Editing by Jeff Franks and Cynthia Osterman