Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Cuba should free Alan Gross

    Cuba should free
    By Editorial, Saturday, July 30, 2:05 AM

    ALAN P. , the U.S. Agency for International Development
    subcontractor who committed what Cuba considers the unconscionable
    offense of making the available to members of its minuscule
    Jewish community, has almost exhausted possible judicial appeals of his
    15-year sentence.

    Mr. Gross, 62, a resident of Potomac, was in December 2009 as
    he prepared to fly home from . Convicted on trumped-up charges in
    March this year, he appeared a few days ago before Cuba's highest
    tribunal to appeal his conviction and plead for release. The outcome of
    his appeal, expected in the coming days, is certain to be dictated one
    way or another by Cuban leader Raul — and will be a sign of
    whether Cuba is remotely interested in better relations with Washington.

    Cuba, besides its repressive ally , is virtually the only place
    in the Western Hemisphere where distributing laptop computers and
    satellite phone equipment intended to connect people to the Internet —
    Mr. Gross's supposed "crime" — could be construed as subversive. The
    regime in Havana is so brittle and creaky that it blanches at the idea
    of its subjects communicating too freely with the outside world, lest
    they undermine a communist system whose attempts at economic development
    have delivered scanty results.

    There are plenty of humanitarian reasons to release Mr. Gross, who has
    been confined for 19 months. Somewhat overweight when he was arrested,
    Mr. Gross has lost 100 pounds, according to his wife and other American
    visitors who have been allowed to meet with him; he also suffers from
    gout, ulcers and arthritis. His daughter is struggling with cancer, and
    his mother is reported to be in poor .

    Cuban authorities have portrayed Mr. Gross as a spy involved in an
    enterprise aimed at undermining the regime. That seems unlikely in the
    extreme. In fact, Mr. Gross, a veteran development worker who had
    minimal command of Spanish, was part of a democratization project of the
    sort the U.S. government runs in countries all over the world.

    At the time of his arrest, Mr. Gross was working for Development
    Alternatives Inc., a Bethesda firm that had won a $6?million government
    contract to promote democracy in Cuba. His work consisted mainly of
    providing computers and satellite phones to Cuban Jews, a community
    thought to number about 1,500, so they could access the Internet, whose
    use is restricted in Cuba, and contact Jewish communities beyond Cuba's
    shores. Not exactly a cloak-and-dagger project likely to bring the
    Castro brothers to their knees.

    The Obama administration has made it clear that any improvement in
    relations with Cuba is on hold pending Mr. Gross's release. That's a
    fitting response to the communist regime's knee-jerk behavior in
    persecuting an American whose "crime," if any, may have been an excess
    of naivete.