Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    US vigil urges release of American held in Cuba

    Associated Press

    US vigil urges release of American held in Cuba
    By JESSICA GRESKO , 09.23.11, 03:17 PM EDT

    WASHINGTON — The wife of an American subcontractor imprisoned in Cuba
    for nearly two years remains hopeful her husband can return home soon,
    even though a recent high-profile mission to bring her husband back failed.

    Judy spoke Friday at a vigil for her husband, Alan , outside
    the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, which maintains
    instead of an embassy. About 50 supporters stood in the rain for the
    hour-long vigil, holding sunflowers and signs in English and Spanish
    that read "Free Now!"

    Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson visited Cuba in early September,
    telling reporters he had been invited to the island to negotiate Gross'
    release. But Cuban officials ultimately rebuffed his efforts, and he
    went home without meeting officials or seeing Gross.

    Judy Gross said Friday she had not spoken to Richardson since the trip.
    She said her husband is suffering every day "mentally, physically and
    spiritually." But she also read part of a recent letter of his where he
    asked supporters to "keep it positive, as I do."

    Gross, 62, was in Cuba in December 2009 after being caught
    illegally bringing communications equipment onto the island while on a
    USAID-funded democracy building program. In March of this year he was
    sentenced to 15 years in for crimes against the state.

    Cuban officials including President Raul accused him of spying,
    but Gross says he was only trying to help the island's tiny Jewish
    community get access.

    "His only intention was to help the small Jewish communities in Cuba,
    nothing more. I believe that the Cubans know this, and we remain hopeful
    that Alan will be able to come home soon," Judy Gross said at Friday's

    Since Alan Gross' imprisonment his family has had a series of
    problems. His wife has had surgery, his mother has inoperable cancer,
    and the older of his two daughters has undergone treatment for breast
    cancer. Judy Gross said Friday that when her husband learned his
    daughter had cancer he pleaded with Cuban officials for a brief release.

    "He begged the Cuban government to let him be by her side and promised
    to return to Cuba after her surgery was over," Judy Gross said.

    Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen also spoke at the vigil, saying that
    relations between the and Cuba would not improve until
    Gross is released.

    "I don't know what point the Cuban government is trying to make, but
    they should understand point, the message they're sending to the rest of
    the world," said Van Hollen, a Democrat who represents a district where
    Gross lived. "And that point is that they fear and they refuse
    to do the humanitarian thing."

    A telephone number for the Cuban Interests Section in Washington rang
    unanswered Friday, and an e-mail message was not returned.