Saturday, December 24, 2011

US regrets Cuba's decision not to release Alan Gross, jailed for bringing Internet equipment to Cuba

US regrets Cuba's decision not to release Alan Gross
Alan Gross's health is said to be deteriorating
Dec. 24, 2011

The US State Department has said it is disappointed that US citizen Alan Gross is not among some 2,900 prisoners to be released by Cuba.

The prisoners, some convicted of political crimes, will be released over the next few days.

President Raul Castro said the move was a goodwill gesture made after he had received numerous requests from relatives and religious institutions.

But Gross, serving 15 years for crimes against the state, will not be freed.

"If this is correct, we are deeply disappointed and deplore the fact that the Cuban government has decided not to take this opportunity to extend this humanitarian release to Mr Gross this holiday season," Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, said.

He said Gross's health was deteriorating and his family had suffered for many years hoping for his release.

In his statement, Mr Toner said Gross - jailed for taking internet equipment to the Communist-run island - should be returned to his family "where he belongs".

Black Spring

President Castro said that 86 foreign prisoners from 25 countries would be freed, and that diplomats would be notified shortly.

Continue reading the main story
Cuba mass prisoner releases

1962: Release and expulsion to the US of 1,113 prisoners captured during failed Bay of Pigs invasion
1979: More than 3,000 prisoners released after negotiations with Cuban exiles
1984: Release of 26 political prisoners after a visit from US activist Jesse Jackson
1998: Release of 299 prisoners after an appeal from Pope John Paul II
July 2010: Government agrees to free 52 prisoners in deal brokered by the Catholic Church
December 2011: President Raul Castro announces 2,900 prisoners to be released
(Sources: BBC, Human Rights Watch, Organization of American States)

Havana's refusal to free him has led to frozen relations with the US, despite a brief warming under President Barack Obama.

Gross, 62, was detained in December 2009 while he was delivering computers and communications equipment to the Jewish community in Cuba. He was sentenced in March 2011.

He was working as a State Department contractor...

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