Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Kerry appeals to Vatican to help free American jailed in Cuba

    Kerry appeals to Vatican to help free American jailed in Cuba
    Tuesday Jan 14, 2014 1:23 PM
    By Daniel Arkin, Staff Writer, NBC News

    Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday called on the Vatican to help
    secure the release of an American contractor who has been jailed in Cuba
    for nearly five years.

    “I raised the issue of Alan Gross and his captivity, and we hope very
    much that there might be able to be assistance with respect to that
    issue,” Kerry said.

    Gross, 64, was arrested in late 2009, after being 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 behind bars. Cuba deems the U.S.-backed technological
    program subversive.

    The arrest hampered a brief and historically unusual period of detente
    in U.S.-Cuba relations after President Barack Obama took office and
    promptly eased restrictions on travel and remittances to the island for
    Cuban-Americans with family in Communist Cuba.

    Kerry — the first Catholic U.S. secretary of state in more than three
    decades — visited the Vatican en route to Kuwait to hold talks with a
    top aide to Pope Francis: Secretary of State Archbishop Pietro Parolin.

    The Vatican has relatively healthy diplomatic ties to Cuba. Pope
    Francis’ predecessors — Pope Benedict and the late Pope John Paul — both
    made historic voyages to the country.

    Source: Kerry appeals to Vatican to help free American jailed in Cuba –
    World News –