Photo: Man Convicted of Espionage Returns to Cuba to be With Terminally Ill Brother
One of the five Cuban intelligence agents convicted of espionage in the United States returned to the Communist-ruled island on Friday for a brief visit with his terminally ill brother, state television said.
Rene Gonzalez, 55, was released from prison last October after 13 years, but has been unable to return to Cuba due to a requirement that he serve his three-year probation on U.S. soil.
Last week, a federal judge authorized the dual Cuban-U.S. citizen to spend two weeks on the island with his brother Roberto Gonzalez, who is said to be in the “terminal stages” of lung and brain cancer.
“Despite the conditions imposed, our people, with deep respect, bid welcome to the homeland to our beloved Rene, and do not cease in the struggle for his permanent return, along with his four brothers,” Cuban state television said in a report on Gonzalez’s arrival in Havana.
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.
Havana acknowledges that the men are intelligence agents, but says they were spying on Miami’s Cuban exile community, not the U.S. government.
U.S. contractor Alan Gross, jailed in Cuba since December 2009, recently asked the Cuban government for a two-week furlough to travel to the United States to visit his ailing mother.
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.
The prisoner’s mother, 89-year-old Evelyn Gross, is too ill to travel.
Alan Gross, now 63, 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.