The wife of U.S. government subcontractor Alan Gross, serving a 15-year prison term in Cuba, says she recently visited him in Havana and fears “he is not going to survive this terrible ordeal” and urged Raúl Castro to free him.
“I have just returned from visiting Alan in Cuba, and I am devastated by his appearance,” Judy Gross declared in a brief statement. “Alan’s health continues to deteriorate. He has lost 105 pounds and developed degenerative arthritis and a mass behind his right shoulder blade.”
“While his spirit remains strong, I fear he is not going to survive this terrible ordeal. I beg President Castro, as a husband and father himself, to put an end to our anguish and let Alan come home to his loving family, including his dying mother,” she added.
Gross, 63, of Potomac, Md., was arrested Dec. 3, 2009 in Havana and sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of undermining the “integrity” of Cuba’s national security by delivering sophisticated satellite phones to Cuban Jews on behalf of the U.S. government. His mother and one of his daughters are battling cancer.
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Cuban laws make it a crime to cooperate with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Cuba democracy programs, alleging that they amount to thinly varnished efforts to topple the communist system.
Judy Gross’ statement was accompanied by an announcement from her husband’s new U.S. attorney, international human rights lawyer Jared Genser in Washington, that signaled a more aggressive legal and publicity campaign to win his release.
Genser has filed a petition with the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to rule Gross’ detention violates Cuba’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, while the Gross family has launched the Web page www.BringAlanHome.org.
Judy Gross initially kept a relatively low profile as she pushed for her husband’s freedom, apparently to avoid angering the Cuban government. She usually called for his release as a humanitarian gesture, and seldom criticized the justice of his incarceration.
Genser, who said he has been involved in human rights cases in China and Myanmar, the former Burma, said Judy Gross hired him about six weeks ago because she “decided to go in a different direction.”
“Alan’s detention is in flagrant violation of international law,” Genser said in a statement. The ruling of the Cuban court that convicted Gross showed “he did nothing wrong and is merely being punished because of the Cuban government’s dislike of the U.S. government.”
“Maybe quiet diplomacy made sense at the beginning,” he told El Nuevo Herald by telephone from Washington, D.C. “But now it’s almost three years, and we’ll take whatever actions are necessary to gain his release.”