Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Cuba to hear jailed American Gross’ appeal July 22

    Cuba to hear jailed American ' appeal July 22
    By PETER ORSI, Associated Press

    (AP) — Cuba's Supreme Court has set a July 22 date to consider an
    appeal by U.S. contractor , who was sentenced to 15 years in
    on charges of illegally importing communications equipment, state
    television said Thursday.

    "The accused and his lawyer were informed of the decision this morning
    … as well as U.S. authorities," said an official message that was also
    posted on government websites.

    The appeal is Gross' final legal recourse, and after that it would be
    left to the Cuban government to consider whether to free him for
    humanitarian or political reasons.

    Gross' daughter and elderly mother both have cancer, and State
    Department officials and his family have expressed hope that Cuba might
    release him on humanitarian grounds.

    "We again call on the Cuban government to immediately and
    unconditionally release him," said Gloria Berbena, a spokeswoman for the
    U.S. Interests Section in Havana, which Washington maintains here
    instead of an embassy. "We will continue to use all diplomatic channels
    to press for his release. He should be reunited with his family, and
    bring an end to his ordeal."

    Gross, 61, of Montgomery County, Maryland, was working on a USAID-funded
    democracy-building program when he was in December 2009. On
    March 11 he was sentenced to 15 years after being convicted of illegally
    importing communications equipment.

    Cuba considers such programs to be aimed at undermining the government,
    and he was convicted under a statute outlawing "acts against the
    independence or territorial integrity of the state."

    "Considerable evidence from witnesses, experts and documentation
    demonstrated his direct participation in a subversive project of the
    U.S. government to try to destroy the revolution," Thursday's official
    note read.

    Gross has said he was working to improve communications for
    Cuba's Jewish community, though Jewish leaders denied dealing with him.

    The case has been a sticking point for relations that have largely been
    on ice since shortly after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, with Cuba calling
    Gross a spy and the U.S. saying no thaw is possible while he remains
    behind bars.

    Cuban officials have publicly ruled out the idea of a swap for five
    Cuban agents sent to monitor militant anti- Cuban groups in
    the and sentenced to lengthy prison terms there.

    According to people who have been able to visit him at a military
    in Havana, Gross, about 50 pounds overweight when he was
    arrested, has lost nearly 100 pounds in custody and is generally in good
    spirits though anxious to return home.

    He has received periodic visits by U.S. diplomats on the island; by a
    U.S. delegation last month that included Democratic political strategist
    Donna Brazile and a member of Gross' Jewish congregation back in
    Washington, and in March by former President Jimmy Carter.

    The case also sparked a congressional fight in Washington with
    Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, holding up $20 million in
    U.S. money slated for democracy programs in Cuba and suggesting they
    were responsible for Gross' imprisonment.

    That drew the ire of Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuba-born
    Republican who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She accused
    her Senate counterpart of failing to understand what she called "the
    brutal nature of the Havana tyranny."

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5icvhyO6k2ZQg3hUgN-UTnAV-dhJQ?docId=c2f9540907254d9ab2488215d8f1cbfb