Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    A Gross miscarriage of justice?

    Cuban-American relations

    A miscarriage of justice?
    Mar 15th 2011, 10:12 by D.A. | MIAMI

    BARACK OBAMA has tried to encourage Cuba's government to liberalise by
    promoting "people-to-people" contact with the . Since
    becoming president, he has relaxed most limits on and money
    transfers to the island. Cuba's ruling brothers have indeed shown
    increasing flexibility of late, releasing dozens of political prisoners
    and legalising some private economic activity. Nonetheless, they do not
    seem interested in reciprocating America's gestures of rapprochement. On
    March 12th Cuba sentenced , an employee of a company
    contracted by the United States Agency for International Development
    (USAID), to 15 years in jail for crimes against the state.

    Mr Gross, who worked for a firm called Development Alternatives Inc.,
    was participating in a programme to improve access for Cuba's
    Jews, which the government deemed "subversive". His job allegedly
    involved distributing internet-connectivity devices, which are strictly
    controlled by the state, and possibly satellite equipment as well, which
    is banned. Foreigners arriving in the country are specifically asked to
    declare to officials whether they are carrying any satellite
    devices, and any that are found are swiftly confiscated.

    American officials have called the sentence "appalling" and called for
    Mr Gross to be released. Although Cuba says that during his trial, Mr
    Gross "recognised having been used and manipulated" by his company and
    the United States government, they note that he can still appeal the
    sentence, and could possibly receive a pardon on humanitarian grounds.
    According to his wife, Mr Gross has lost more than 40 kilograms (90
    pounds) since his arrest, and his mother and daughter are both suffering
    from cancer.

    The Cuban government may well decide that it has milked the Gross case
    sufficiently to allow him to go home, after an appropriate interval. "I
    don't think [the verdict] is necessarily the final word," says Philip
    Peters, a Cuba analyst at the Washington-based Lexington Institute. "I
    don't see it in Cuba's interest to hold him for a long period of time."
    However, the Castros might feel tempted to hang onto Mr Gross and use
    him as a bargaining chip to gain the release of five Cubans who were
    convicted in the United States of espionage in 2005. In that case, it
    might be quite some time before Mr Gross is allowed to go home.