Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    America’s forgotten prisoner languishes in Cuban jail

    America's forgotten languishes in Cuban jail


    WASHINGTON — The Globe and Mail

    Published Thursday, Nov. 22 2012, 10:07 PM EST

    Suffering from a mysterious ailment and having lost nearly 50 kilograms

    languishing in Cuban prisons for nearly three years, Alan is

    perhaps America's most forgotten prisoner.

    The development worker, with experience on U.S.-funded projects in Iraq

    and Afghanistan setting up communications networks, was convicted in

    March, 2011, of attempting to subvert the revolution on the Communist


    His supporters claim he was innocently trying to set up access

    for Cuba's tiny Jewish minority under a project funded by the U.S. aid

    agency, USAID, and that the Obama administration has not come to his

    assistance for fear of alienating Cuban-American voters during the election.

    With the 2012 contest over, however, a concerted effort is under way to

    goad the Obama administration into action.

    The Gross family has filed a lawsuit for up to $30-million in damages

    from the U.S. government, and with the aid of a high-profile

    human-rights lawyer, who counts Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi as one

    of his clients, they have launched a set of actions to draw attention to

    the case.

    Mr. Gross's wife, Judy, believes that Barack Obama wanted nothing to do

    with springing her husband from a hostile regime – at least until the

    presidential elections were over – for fear of riling the powerful

    Cuban-American constituency in Florida, a vital group of voters in a

    swing state who would not take kindly to his administration negotiating

    with the Communist regime. "He was willing to have somebody rot in jail

    because of South Florida and the election," Mrs. Gross said in an interview.

    The U.S. State Department has denied that Mr. Gross is a spy and said

    that he is being held without justification.

    Mr. Gross was in his Havana room on Dec. 3, 2009, on the

    last day of what was supposed to be his fifth and final visit to Cuba.

    After 14 months in , he was finally charged with "a subversive

    project aimed at bringing down the revolution." After a two-day trial,

    he was convicted and given a 15-year prison sentence.

    Mr. Gross is held in a Havana military . Cuban doctors claim a

    large mass in his shoulder isn't serious but after a long-distance

    review, Alan Cohen, a Maryland radiologist, warned that the mass

    represents a "potentially lethal outcome."

    Jared Genser, who is president of the non-profit group Now and

    whose clients have included former Czech Republic president Vaclav Havel

    and Nobel Peace Prize laureates Desmond Tutu and and Elie Wiesel, has

    formally asked Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and

    other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment, to open a

    file on Cuba's treatment of Mr. Gross.

    Mr. Gross had been "denied adequate medical diagnosis and treatment for

    the last six months," Mr. Genser wrote in a letter to Mr. Mendez, adding

    that, if it continues, the Cuban government's conduct "will constitute


    The Gross family has also filed a lawsuit against Development

    Alternatives Inc., the aid company for whom Mr. Gross was working,

    accusing both the company and the U.S. government of failing to provide

    Mr. Gross with the " and training that was necessary to

    minimize the risk of harm to him."

    A letter from more than 500 rabbis, including 19 in and others

    from more than a dozen countries, to Cuba's President Raul Castro urged

    Mr. Gross be released "on humanitarian grounds," not only because of his

    illness but because his "90-year-old mother also has terminal lung

    cancer and desperately wants to see her son before she dies."

    Among them is Ron Aigen, president of the Montreal Board of Rabbis, who

    said it was inexcusable and inexplicable that Mr. Gross case had failed

    – so far – to arouse support among Jews and others concerned about

    unwarranted imprisonment.

    Cuba contends the multimillion-dollar USAID effort was a thinly

    disguised attempt to undermine the Castro government by giving

    dissidents and opposition groups independent access to the Internet and

    sophisticated technology to cover their tracks.

    Mrs. Gross said her husband's "mood is one of incredible anger." The

    U.S. government "sent me here and then deserted me in Cuba," he told her

    when she visited Havana last month.

    Cuba has repeatedly hinted that Mr. Gross could be freed in a swap for

    the so-called Cuban Five, a group of Cuban spies arrested in 1998.

    Havana admits they were intelligence agents but contends they were

    keeping an eye on the radical and violent extremists in the Cuban diaspora.

    "[It's] an essential element in this agenda," Cuba's Foreign Minister

    Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla Lopez said earlier this month that one of

    Havana's conditions for better relations with the United States was

    freeing the Cuba Five.

    Mr. Genser says Havana needs to move first: "If the Cubans want good

    relations with Obama in the second term … the fastest and best way to do

    that is to release Alan Gross."