Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    US asks Pope to help in Alan Gross case

    Posted on Wednesday, 03.28.12

    US asks Pope to help in Alan Gross case
    By MATTHEW LEE
    Associated Press

    WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration said Wednesday it had asked Pope
    Benedict XVI to raise with Cuban officials the case of American
    contractor Alan Gross, jailed on suspicion of espionage.

    The State Department said the request was made directly to the Vatican
    and through the papal nuncio in Washington before the Pope arrived in
    Cuba this week.

    "We obviously are hopeful that the pope will continue to be strong on
    all of the human rights issues in Cuba, religious freedom, and it would
    be a very, very good thing if the Cuban government were to take this
    opportunity to release Alan Gross," spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

    "We would be obviously very grateful were the the pope to raise this
    issue," she told reporters.

    Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said late Tuesday that the
    pontiff had made "requests of a humanitarian nature" to the Cuban
    government but did not know if individual cases were discussed. He had
    no comment when asked about Alan Gross on Wednesday.

    Gross is serving a 15-year prison sentence stemming from his work
    importing satellite and other communications equipment onto the island
    under a USAID-funded democracy-building program. Cuba considers such
    programs to be attempts against its sovereignty, and he was convicted of
    crimes against the state.

    Gross maintains that he was only trying to help Cuban Jews improve their
    Internet capability.

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/28/2719200/us-asks-pope-to-help-in-alan-gross.html