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US wife presses Obama on husband jailed in Cuba

12 / 01 / 2012


The wife of jailed US contractor Alan Gross on Friday urged President Barack Obama to send a top-level envo  to Cuba to negotiate his release, three years after his arrest.

"I urge President Obama to make my husband's case a top priority," Judy Gross said at a news conference held to mark the third anniversary of her husband's arrest on the Communist-run Caribbean island state.

"I urge him to privately have an honest and open discussion with the Cubans and to do whatever is necessary to secure Alan's release."

Gross, 63, was arrested on December 3, 2009 for illegally distributing laptops and communications gear to members of Cuba's small Jewish community. At the time, he was working for a firm contracted to the US State Department.

In March 2011 he was sentenced to 15-year prison for "acts against the independence or territorial integrity" of Cuba.

"President Obama needs to send a high-level envoy to Cuba, who has the authority to discuss the range of issues in the bilateral relationship and to take whatever decisions are necessary to bring Alan home," Gross family lawyer Jared Genser said.

Last year former president Jimmy Carter and ex-UN ambassador Bill Richardson traveled to Cuba, but failed to obtain Gross's release. "That certainly won't stop us from sending more envoys," said Judy Gross.

"I will not allow my husband to die in a Cuban prison," she added.

William Ostick, spokesman for the Western Hemisphere section of the State Department, said US officials "have continuously engaged the Cuban government" since Gross's arrest, insisting that his case "will remain a high priority."

Gross said that on her last visit to Havana her husband appeared weak and had lost more than 100 pounds, but Cuba said Wednesday that he is in "normal" health, and medical tests show he does not have cancer as his family feared.

Cuba said the weight loss was due to voluntary exercise and a balanced diet that "has allowed him to get rid of his formerly obese condition."

Cuba has suggested they would swap Gross for some or all of the "Cuban Five" spies convicted held in the United States.

The Cubans were arrested in 1998 and found guilty in 2001 of trying to infiltrate US military installations in South Florida. They received prison terms ranging from 15 years to life.

Cuba has acknowledged that the five were intelligence agents, but says they were gathering information on "terrorist" plots by Cuban expatriates in Florida -- not spying on the US government.

Source: AFP


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