Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    U.S. delegation urges talks to free American jailed in Cuba

    U.S. delegation urges talks to free American jailed in Cuba
    HAVANA Mon May 5, 2014 8:53pm EDT

    (Reuters) – Four U.S. lawmakers visiting Cuba on Monday urged President
    Barack Obama to authorize negotiations with the Cuban government about
    freeing jailed U.S. contractor Alan Gross.

    The visiting Americans, who met with Gross in his hospital prison, also
    expressed hope those talks would cover other issues such as the U.S.
    trade embargo of Cuba and the case of three Cuban spies serving long
    prison terms in the United States.

    Gross, 65, is serving a 15-year sentence over his 2009 arrest and 2011
    conviction for attempting to set up an Internet service for Cuban Jews
    while working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International
    Development (USAID). Cuba considered his work a subversive program that
    used illegal, undercover and noncommercial technology.

    Cuba has said it is willing to engage in negotiations about Gross
    without preconditions, while U.S. officials have disregarded the offer
    as an attempt to exchange Gross for the three Cuban agents.

    “It is time that both countries make a serious commitment to engage in
    negotiations with no preconditions and we will communicate that to the
    White House upon our return,” Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California,
    told reporters.

    She was joined by three other Democrats from the House, Gregory Meeks of
    California, Sam Farr of New York and Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, on a
    mission sponsored by the Center for Democracy in the Americas, a group
    dedicated to changing U.S. policy toward countries in the hemisphere.

    All four representatives have long supported the normalization of U.S.
    relations with Cuba.

    The congressional delegation met with Gross at his hospital prison and
    also with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez on Monday, and they
    were briefed by American officials before departing the United States.

    About a year ago, Cuba began offering to enter talks without
    preconditions, according to Gross’s lawyer, Scott Gilbert.

    Cuba previously had more directly sought to link Gross’s incarceration
    to the cases of the so-called Cuban Five, unregistered agents who were
    caught spying on Cuban exile groups in Florida that opposed the
    communist government in Havana. Two of the five have been released.

    The United States has rejected any trade of the Cuban agents for Gross,
    and no formal talks have taken place.

    (Editing by Ken Wills)

    Source: U.S. delegation urges talks to free American jailed in Cuba |
    Reuters –