Protests over American's Cuba detention

2012-12-03 12:02
Adela Dworin, the vice-president of the Hebrew Community of Cuba, David Prinstein, and US State Department contractor Alan Gross in December 2011 at the hospital in Havana where he is confined. (Hebrew Community of Cuba/ AFP)

Adela Dworin, the vice-president of the Hebrew Community of Cuba, David Prinstein, and US State Department contractor Alan Gross in December 2011 at the hospital in Havana where he is confined. (Hebrew Community of Cuba/ AFP)

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Washington - About 50 protesters gathered on Sunday at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington on Sunday demanding freedom for US contractor Alan Gross, with the jailed man's wife among the demonstrators.

Judith Gross headed the procession carrying lit candles and placards reading "Free Alan Gross" to mark the third anniversary of her husband's detention in Cuba.

The demonstration was held at the diplomatic office handling Cuban affairs, located about 20 blocks north of the White House.

With a trembling voice, Judith read an e-mail sent by her daughter Nina to her imprisoned dad.

"To President Obama and to President Castro: I need my dad with me," read the daughter's message.

Gross, aged 63, was detained on 3 December 2009 for illegally distributing laptops and communications equipment to Cuba's small Jewish community. At the time, he was working for a firm contracted to the US State Department.

Gross, a tireless advocate for her husband's release, said "we must start with a clean slate" in talks to free her husband.

Weight loss

"What has happened or not happened between our government and the Cuban government is over, it is the past and neither country should dwell on it," she said, adding that it is "the duty of the US government to bring Alan home".

Gross and her husband have filed a lawsuit against the US government and his employer, Development Alternatives, for $60m, claiming that they failed to prepare him for the dangers of the work in Cuba and did not protect him.

Gross was sentenced in March 2011 to 15-year prison for "acts against the independence or territorial integrity" of the communist-ruled island.

Judith Gross has said that on her last visit to Havana her husband appeared weak and had lost more than 45kg, but Cuba insists that he is in fine shape.

Havana insists that Gross's weight loss was due to voluntary exercise and a more balanced diet that "has allowed him to get rid of his formerly obese condition".

A prominent member of Congress, Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen, said Washington would do everything possible to secure his release.

"We will not rest until justice is done and Alan Gross comes home," Van Hollen said.

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