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American Alan Gross completes fifth year in Cuban prison


American Alan Gross completes fifth year in Cuban prison

Judy Gross, wife of U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross, talks to Reuters during an interview in Havana June 25, 2014

 U.S. foreign aid worker Alan Gross completed his fifth year in a Cuban prison on Wednesday with his wife warning he is in terrible condition, while any hopes for improving hostile U.S.-Cuban relations hinge largely on his fate.

"I am afraid that we are at the end. After five years of literally wasting away, Alan is done," his wife, Judy Gross, said in a statement that described him as gaunt, hobbling and missing five teeth.

Cuba arrested Gross, now 65, on Dec. 3, 2009, and later convicted the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) subcontractor to 15 years in prison for importing banned technology and trying to establish clandestine internet service for Cuban Jews.

The case is emblematic of bitter U.S.-Cuban relations dating to the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power, and any potential breakthrough appears remote while Gross is still in prison.

The United States has demanded his unconditional release and rejected offers to discuss swapping him for three Cuban intelligence agents serving prisons terms in the United States.

U.S. officials say it would be wrong to equate Gross with Cuban spies. Havana labels the three as anti-terrorist heroes who defended Cuba by infiltrating anti-Castro extremist groups in Florida.

Obama has the authority to conduct a prisoner swap and rewrite U.S. policy on Cuba. Although he said "we have to continue to update our policies" on Cuba over a year ago, he has yet to signal change.

Gross' wife is urging Obama to take action.

"It is time for President Obama to bring Alan back to the United States now; otherwise it will be too late," she said.

Gross' mental and physical health has declined, he can barely walk or see out of his right eye and he has grown increasingly suicidal, according to his lawyer, Scott Gilbert.

After his 65th birthday last May, Gross vowed not to turn 66 in prison, telling visitors he would rather die. He said goodbye to his wife and daughter in July and has refused to see them or U.S. diplomats in Havana, Gilbert said.

He weighed 254 pounds (115 kg) five years ago and has since lost more than 100 pounds (46 kg).



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Published by , 03.12.2014 at 14:31
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