US asks Cuba to release jailed contractor

2012-12-04 13:00
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 - The United States government repeated its demand for the Cuban government to allow the "humanitarian" release of US contractor Alan Gross, who remained imprisoned on Tuesday's third anniversary of his arrest on the island.

US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said that "Alan Gross will begin his fourth year of unjustified imprisonment" on Tuesday in Cuba.

"We continue to ask the Cuban government to grant Alan Gross' request to travel to the United States to visit his 90-year-old mother, Evelyn Gross, who is gravely ill. This is a humanitarian issue," Toner said.

Gross, aged 63, a US citizen, was arrested in December 2009, and a court sentenced him in 2011 to 15 years in prison, after he was convicted of spying.

"The Cuban government should release Alan Gross and return him to his family, where he belongs," Toner said, reiterating long-standing US demands on the issue.

Deteriorating health

Gross worked for a firm that was under contract with the US State Department. He was convicted in Cuba of espionage for distributing satellite internet equipment on the island, where such devices are banned, though they abound in other countries.

The US government has staunchly denied the charges and has insisted since Gross' arrest that he should be released for humanitarian reasons. Gross says that the equipment was intended for the use of Cuban Jews.

Gross' case is believed to have put a brake on timid efforts by the government of US President Barack Obama to improve ties with Havana. Such moves included easing restrictions for Cuban-Americans on sending remittances and on travelling to the island.

The contractor's family has alleged the deterioration over the last three years of Gross' health. Cuban authorities deny he is in ill health and last week said that they had ruled out that he could be suffering cancer.

"Since his arrest, Mr Gross has lost more than 100 pounds and suffers from severe degenerative arthritis that affects his mobility, and other health problems. His family is anxious to evaluate whether he is receiving appropriate medical treatment, something that can best be determined by having a doctor of his own choosing examine him," the US State Department said.

- SAPA
Read more on:    barack obama  |  cuba  |  us  |  espionage
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