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Latino Daily News

Friday March 16, 2012

As Mother’s Health Deteriorates, Jailed US Contractor Alan Gross Asks Cuban Officials for Furlough

As Mother’s Health Deteriorates, Jailed US Contractor Alan Gross Asks Cuban Officials for Furlough

Photo: Atorney for Imprisoned US Contractor Alan Gross Accuses Cuba of Misrepresentation

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U.S. contractor Alan Gross, jailed in Cuba since December 2009, has asked the Cuban government for leave to travel to the United States for two weeks to visit his ailing mother, his lawyer said.

Attorney Peter Kahn distributed in Washington a copy of the letter he sent in Gross’s name to Cuban President Raul Castro asking that he be allowed to make the trip for humanitarian reasons, with assurances that he would return to Cuba when the two weeks were up.

“We are reaching out to you directly, with the knowledge that you have the power to grant such humanitarian requests, as you have done in the past, and with the hope that you will extend a humanitarian gesture not only towards Alan, but to his ailing mother,” Kahn wrote.

The attorney asked permission for Alan to visit the United States for two weeks because his mother, 89-year-old Evelyn Gross, is too ill to travel.

Gross’s mother is suffering from the inoperable cancer in both lungs that was diagnosed in 2011, and, according to the letter, her final wish is “to be able to see her son once more before her battle with cancer is lost.”

Besides his mother’s illness, Gross is also pained by not being able to see his 26-year-old daughter Shira, detected with breast cancer in 2010.

Alan Gross, now 62, himself suffers various health problems since he was sentenced and has lost some 45 kilos (100 pounds) in prison.

This is not the first time that Gross’s family and attorneys have requested permission from the Cuban government for him to travel, but with no success as yet.

Gross’s request is similar to the one recently presented in Washington, also for humanitarian reasons, by Rene Gonzalez, one of the five Cuban intelligence agents sentenced in the United States for espionage, who wished to travel to Cuba to visit his brother who is ailing with cancer.

Alan Gross was arrested in Havana on Dec. 3, 2009, in possession of satellite communications equipment he said he was planning to distribute among Cuba’s Jewish community.

Havana says he was illegally aiding dissidents and inciting subversion on the Communist-ruled island. Last August, Cuba’s highest court upheld the 15-year jail sentence imposed on Gross five months earlier.

Gross was in Cuba as an employee of a Maryland firm contracted by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The “Cuban Five” - Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez - were arrested by the FBI in 1998 and convicted three years later by a federal jury in Miami.

Though one of the group, Rene Gonzalez, completed his custodial sentence last October and was released, he has not been permitted to go home, as the federal courts say he must serve his three-year probation on U.S. soil.