Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Three US Jews Still Held Hostage Overseas

    Three US Jews Still Held Hostage Overseas
    By: Jacob Kamaras and Sean Savage
    Published: October 24th, 2012

    "There are, I think, almost 3,000 Americans in foreign jails. Almost all
    of them are in there for doing something."

    That is the assessment given to JNS.org by U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY),
    a leading advocate for the freedom of 53-year-old Brooklyn flooring
    contractor Jacob Ostreicher – who, according to his supporters, is
    wrongly imprisoned in Bolivia and therefore falls outside the "almost
    3,000 Americans" cited by Turner.

    Ostreicher's situation is one of three high-profile cases of American
    Jews overseas who remain either controversially imprisoned or held hostage.

    In early October, lawyers for 63-year-old Alan Gross, a U.S. Agency for
    International Development (USAID) contractor imprisoned in Cuba since
    December 2009 for trying to bring that country's Jewish community
    Internet access, announced that a doctor who reviewed Gross's medical
    records found a tumor in his right shoulder that may be cancerous. The
    tumor is a "potentially life-threatening medical problem that has not
    been adequately evaluated to modern medical standards" by Cuban doctors,
    according to Dr. Alan A. Cohen.

    Since that revelation, Cuba has been "surprisingly quiet in response,
    and I say surprisingly because typically they tend to be very aggressive
    at responding to claims about Alan's situation, and I think the detailed
    nature of Dr. Cohen's assessment has flummoxed them and they're not
    quite sure how they can respond," said Gross lawyer Jared Genser.

    Gross, who lived in Potomac, Md., received a 15-year prison sentence
    even though he was working with "peaceful, non-dissident, Jewish groups"
    in Cuba, according to the U.S. Cuba convicted him of "crimes against the
    state."

    In August, Gross's lawyers filed a petition asking the United Nations
    Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to conclude that Cuba had violated
    Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
    (ICCPR) – a treaty that guarantees freedom of expression and the rights
    to receive and disseminate information freely through any media of
    choice – by imprisoning Gross.

    Cuba "didn't point to anything [Gross] did beyond provide publicly
    available computer equipment to Jewish communities down in Cuba, and
    that falls squarely within the protections for article 19 of the ICCPR,"
    Genser said, making his ongoing detention "a flagrant violation of
    Cuba's obligations of international law."

    Cuba has 60 days to respond to the UN petition. Gross's team is
    expecting the UN arbitrary detention working group to hear the case in
    mid-November and to issue an opinion in mid-December. The group's
    opinions are not binding under international law and there is no
    enforcement provision that could compel Cuba to comply, but Genser said
    a ruling in Gross's favor could still be a significant step.

    On Capitol Hill, the push for Gross's freedom received broad bipartisan
    support in September, with 44 U.S. senators signing a letter to Cuban
    President Raul Castro asking for Gross's release.

    Ultimately, said Genser, it needs to be "the president and the secretary
    of state who are going to resolve this case, and my hope is that
    regardless of who wins the election on Nov. 6, that either President
    Obama or a president-elect Romney will be in position to make a new set
    of moves toward the government of Cuba after the election is over."

    * * *

    Jacob Ostreicher traveled to Bolivia in December 2010 to oversee rice
    production and was arrested in June 2011 on suspicion of money
    laundering and criminal organization. No formal charges have ever been
    brought against him.

    On Aug. 31 this year, Ostreicher was denied bail. Congressman Turner,
    who represents the section of Brooklyn where Ostreicher lived, explained
    in a phone interview that according to Bolivian law, "you have to be
    charged within an 18-month period."

    Turner and U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) are among the consistent
    advocates for Ostreicher's cause. The problem, according to Turner, lies
    within the U.S. State Department, whose involvement, he said, was
    limited by virtue of being "bound by their own rules."

    Despite the "preponderance of evidence" showing Ostreicher's innocence,
    Turner said that State Department officials have "their own bureaucratic
    procedures" and "don't want to get out of their comfort zone."

    "They respect Bolivian law even when the Bolivians are not following
    it," Turner said. "I think this is a time for outrage and not following
    bureaucratic procedures. It's as simple as that."

    At the very least, Turner believes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
    "has to send a letter to [the Bolivians] that she has reviewed
    [Ostreicher's] case personally" and that she has concluded Ostreicher's
    incarceration is unjust on both Bolivian legal and humanitarian grounds.

    This past June, Congressman Smith attended a hearing with Ostreicher
    during which a Bolivian judge passed the matter on to a higher court – a
    move "likely guaranteeing more months of delay," according to the New
    Jersey legislator.

    "Jacob has been cooperative, patient to the extreme," Smith said in a
    statement. "There is no evidence offered against him. The rule of law
    must prevail in Bolivia. Innocent people must have a path to justice."

    * * *

    Warren Weinstein's case differs from those of Gross and Ostreicher in
    that he is a hostage rather than a prisoner. A 71-year-old aid worker
    from Rockville, Md., he has been held captive by al Qaeda since August
    2011 after being abducted from his home in Lahore, Pakistan. According
    to police reports at the time, eight to 10 men approached Weinstein's
    house on a ploy, tied up Weinstein's three guards, and took him away.

    At the time of his capture, Weinstein had been working in Pakistan for
    several years as a director of J.E. Austin Associates, a U.S.-based
    development contractor that advises different Pakistani business and
    government sectors.

    A number of videos have been released since Weinstein's capture. Late
    last year, the leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, said in a video
    statement that Weinstein would be released if the U.S. stopped
    airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Al-Zawahri also
    demanded the release of all al Qaeda and Taliban suspects around the world.

    This May, Weinstein appeared in another video in which he said he would
    be killed unless Obama agreed to al Qaeda's demands. The White House has
    refused to negotiate with al Qaeda.

    In September, Weinstein's captors released a third video in which
    Weinstein is seen looking exhausted while wearing a plain white t-shirt
    in front of a military fatigue backdrop, and he makes a direct appeal
    "as one Jew to another" to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to
    work with the Mujahedeen for his release.

    Weinstein's case has so far flown largely under the radar of the
    American public and the Jewish community. Outside of some media coverage
    of his videos, little action has been taken to facilitate his release.

    Mike Redwood, a leather industry expert who worked with Weinstein in
    Pakistan, told JNS.org that Weinstein "was very professional and
    certainly one of the best in the area I have ever worked with."

    "He was a true family man…. He was clearly deeply committed to the work
    he was doing," Redwood wrote in an e-mail.

    On the anniversary of Weinstein's capture on Aug. 13, his wife, Elaine,
    issued a statement appealing for his freedom. She said he suffers from a
    number of serious medical ailments, including a heart condition, severe
    asthma and high blood pressure, and she fears his health "will
    deteriorate if he is not allowed to see the doctors and specialists that
    have helped keep him alive in recent years."

    http://www.jewishpress.com/news/us-news/in-three-high-profile-cases-u-s-jews-remain-imprisoned-or-held-hostage-overseas/2012/10/24/0/