Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Petitions urge Gross’ release

    Petitions urge ’ release
    12/15/2010 11:00:00 AM

    Rabbi David Shneyer, two petitions in hand urging Cuba to release a Jewish American , led a handful of congregants to the Cuban Interests Section on Friday, but was unable to drop off the petitions.

    The reason: He didn’t have an appointment.

    The petitions — one signed by about 200 people, most of them local; the other signed by about 40 members of Rabbis for — seek the release of Potomac resident .

    Gross, 61, was a year ago, with Cuba calling him a spy. Charges have never been filed. Both his family and the State Department say he was in the country on a U.S. Agency for International Development contract to help the Cuban Jewish community with access to communicate with other Jewish communities.

    Shneyer, rabbi of Kehila Chadasha and Am Kolel Jewish Renewal Center, where Gross is a member, said he had repeatedly sought a meeting with Carlos Barros Olivera, the Cuban Interests Section deputy chief of mission. It was to Barros that he hoped to deliver the petitions.

    The local petition, addressed to the Cuban government, states: “We hope you will let Alan free as a humanitarian act, for the sake of his family and for the sake of creating good will between our peoples.”

    The petition signed by the rabbis — including Charles Feinberg of Adas Israel in D.C., Alana Suskind of Shaare Torah in Gaithersburg and Sid Schwarz of Rockville — is directed to Cuban Raul . “The equipment he brought was intended for humanitarian purpose, not for the community. Your government has not charged him with any crime,” it says. “We urge you to release Alan Gross immediately.”

    A letter to Castro signed by Shneyer noted that Friday marked the anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Rights. “The Cuban Revolution was a struggle for these basic human rights. Article 9 reads ‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or .’ His captivity without charge for more than a year is both arbitrary and cruel,” he wrote.

    Shneyer had met with Barros in February, a meeting he said took several months to arrange. “At that time, he said there was an ongoing investigation,” the rabbi said, adding he will continue his efforts to arrange a meeting and deliver the letters. He also said an online petition is in the works.

    Cuba, Shneyer complained, “has never said officially what they want from the to release Alan.”

    A spokesperson for the interests section had no comment on Gross, saying the investigation is ongoing. — WJW staff