Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Jailed American awaits Cuban court decision

    Jailed American awaits Cuban court decision
    By Jeff Franks

    | Thu Jun 23, 2011 5:37pm EDT

    (Reuters) – Jailed U.S. aid contractor is awaiting a decision
    on his case by Cuba's highest court and trying to stay strong while his
    family's situation worsens back home, wife Judy said Thursday.

    A U.S. delegation recently visited him and said he appeared to be doing
    well given the circumstances, but she told Reuters in a statement that
    the truth is otherwise.

    "Alan's deteriorates daily; he has lost nearly 100 pounds. While
    he is trying to make the best of a bad situation and put on a brave
    face, the truth he is suffering tremendously," she said.

    Apart from his own incarceration, his wife said Gross is deeply worried
    about the couple's 26-year-old daughter, who had a double mastectomy due
    to breast cancer in February, and his 89-year-old mother, who was
    diagnosed with lung cancer at about the same time.

    She did not mention it, but sources close to the family said Judy Gross
    recently had surgery for an undisclosed ailment.

    Gross, 62, has been jailed for 19 months and in March was sentenced to
    15 years in for bringing communications equipment to
    Cuba under a secretive U.S. program promoting change on the communist

    The case has brought U.S.-Cuba relations to a standstill after a brief
    period of improvement under U.S. President Barack Obama, who eased U.S.
    restrictions to Cuba and allowed a free flow of remittances to
    the island.

    Gross appealed the March conviction and, according to recent statements
    by the head of Cuba's Supreme Court, the case is being deliberated. It
    is not clear when a decision will be reached.

    Gross and the U.S. government, which says he was only helping Jewish
    groups and broke no law, are hoping the court will rule in his favor and
    let him go home.

    There have been odd hints that something is in the works, but nothing
    confirmed or official.


    The official Chinese news agency Xinhua quoted Supreme Court head Ruben
    Remigio Ferro in May as saying, "There is a pending appeal and it is
    being considered to grant a pardon or release on humanitarian grounds,
    considering that his daughter and his mother are very sick."

    The case, he was quoted as saying, "will be resolved in the shortest
    time possible."

    Last week, a conducting a hunger strike to demand Gross'
    release told Reuters that, after 79 days without , he began eating
    again after government officials assured him Gross would be freed within
    two months.

    The government has said little about Gross, but never misses an
    opportunity to bring up five Cuban agents who it believes have been
    unjustly jailed in the since 1998 on spying-related

    Although it supposedly has never been discussed, most observers believe
    Cuba would happily swap Gross for what it calls the Five Heroes.

    Short of that, some believe it may be waiting for Obama to take
    conciliatory steps before releasing Gross.

    "I am still persuaded that the key to Alan's release is U.S.
    acknowledgment that his actions were a crime under Cuban law and that
    similar efforts funded by (U.S. agencies) will stop," said John McAuliff
    of the New York-based Fund For Reconciliation and Development, which
    advocates for better U.S.-Cuba relations.

    Other actions such as removing Cuba from the list of
    terrorism-sponsoring countries and further expanding U.S. travel
    opportunities to Cuba could also help, he said.

    With a difficult reelection campaign already under way, the likelihood
    of Obama taking actions that could alienate the important Cuban American
    vote in Florida appears to be small.

    Cuban American leaders such as U.S. Senators Bob Menendez, a Democrat,
    and Marco Rubio, a Republican, have complained that he has been too soft
    on what they consider a despotic Cuban government.

    In the meantime, said Judy Gross, "our family is increasingly devastated
    by Alan's continued incarceration in Cuba."

    She asked Cuban President "to find it in his heart to
    release my husband on humanitarian grounds."

    (Editing by Tom Brown and Eric Walsh)