Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Cuba won’t budge on jailed American contractor, insists on prisoner swap

    Cuba won’t budge on jailed American contractor, insists on prisoner swap
    By Mary Murray, NBC News

    Cuba’s government on Wednesday continued to tie the fate of an American
    contractor jailed there for four years to the release of four Cuban
    spies imprisoned in the U.S. since 1998.

    Responding to renewed calls for Havana to free 64-year-old American
    contractor Alan Gross, Director General of Cuba’s Foreign Ministry,
    Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, said in a statement that the government is open
    to negotiations for a swap of prisoners.
    “The Cuban government reiterates its readiness to immediately establish
    a dialogue with the United States government to find a solution to the
    case of Mr. Gross on a reciprocal basis, and which addresses the
    humanitarian concerns of Cuba relating to the case of the four Cuban
    anti-terrorist fighters in prison in the United States,” she said.
    Ferreiro was referring to four remaining members of the “Cuban Five”
    held in U.S. prisons after being convicted of conspiracy to commit
    espionage and other charges in 1998. The prisoners — Gerardo Hernández,
    Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando González — are national
    heroes in Cuba, and the governments of Raul Castro and Fidel Castro
    before him have made winning their freedom a priority. The fifth member
    of the group, René González, was released in October 2011 and
    subsequently returned to Cuba.
    “(The Cuban prisoners) … serve long and unjust prison sentences for
    crimes they did not commit and which were never proved,” Ferreiro said
    in the statement. “Their imprisonment has a high human cost to them and
    their families. They have not seen their children grow, they have lost
    mothers, fathers and brothers, face health problems, and have been
    separated from their families and their homeland for over 15 years now.”
    Gross, an Agency for International Development contractor, was arrested
    on Dec. 3, 2009, and accused of smuggling sophisticated satellite and
    other telecommunications equipment to Cuba’s tiny Jewish community.
    Gross has said he was only trying to increase internet access in Cuba.
    But he was convicted by a Cuban court in March 2011 of crimes “against
    the independence and territorial integrity of the state” and sentenced
    to 15 years.
    Since then, he has lost more than 100 pounds in the Cuban prison where
    he is being held, according to his wife, Judy, and supporters.
    President Barack Obama’s spokesman, the U.S. State Department and 66
    U.S. senators used the fourth anniversary of Gross’ arrest on Tuesday to
    urge Cuba to free him.
    “Mr. Gross is a 64-year-old husband, father, and dedicated professional
    with a long history of providing aid to underserved communities in more
    than 50 countries,” the State Department said in a statement Monday. “We
    reiterate our call on the Cuban government, echoing foreign leaders and
    even Cuba’s allies, to release Alan Gross immediately and unconditionally.”
    Gross also marked the anniversary, penning a letter to Obama pleading
    for his “personal involvement” to secure his release.

    Source: “Cuba won’t budge on jailed American contractor, insists on
    prisoner swap – Investigations” –