Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    US Diplomat Urges Cuba to Release Jailed Contractor

    US Diplomat Urges Cuba to Release Jailed Contractor
    VOA News February 18, 2011

    The top U.S. diplomat for the Americas is calling for the "unconditional
    release" of a U.S. contractor who has been held in Cuba for more than
    one year on suspicion of spying.

    Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela made the remark Thursday
    in Washington during a hearing on Latin America. In his prepared
    statement, Valenzuela said the U.S. deplores Cuba's recent announcement
    that prosecutors there intend to seek a 20-year sentence against
    contractor Alan . Valenzuela described as a dedicated
    development worker who was in Cuba providing support to members of the
    island's Jewish community.

    Earlier this month, Cuban media reported that Gross is accused of
    violating Cuba's independence and territorial integrity and that a trial
    date would be set shortly. Officials there say the has
    been informed of the decision through diplomatic channels and that
    Gross's family will be allowed to attend the trial.

    The White House has said the move "compounds the injustice" Gross has
    already suffered. A recent statement said officials remain deeply
    concerned for Gross's well-being and that of his family and called for
    his immediate release. The State Department accused Cuba of violating
    justice by holding Gross for so long before charging him.

    Gross has been held since December 2009. accuses him of
    distributing satellite equipment to groups. The U.S.
    says he works for a private firm outside Washington called Development
    Alternatives, Incorporated. The company has said Gross was taking part
    in a U.S. government-sponsored finance program to strengthen civil
    society in Cuba. The U.S. has denied that Gross is a spy and previously
    has called for his release.

    An official at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana has told VOA that
    Gross's continued detention is "an obstacle" for increased dialogue
    between both countries. Jonathan Farrar made the remark during a recent
    visit to VOA's Washington headquarters.