Photo: Mother of U.S. Constractor Being Held in Cuba Makes Video Appeal to Raul Castro
The mother of Alan Gross, the U.S. aid contractor being held in a Cuban prison, released on Thursday a video message to Cuba’s President Raul Castro urging him to free her son on humanitarian grounds.
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. In August, Cuba’s highest court upheld the 15-year jail sentence imposed on Gross in March.
In her video, 89-year-old Evelyn Gross makes an emotional appeal to the octogenarian Cuban leader on behalf of her son and his family.
“I’m gonna be 90 in April and that means, maybe I have time, maybe I don’t,” the Maryland woman said. “But I have lung cancer in both lungs and it stands to reason I’m not gonna be here for any length of time.”
Her son, she said, “has two wonderful children and a wonderful wife and they need him desperately. It’s very difficult to see him languishing in a prison when he should be out with his family.”
“I, I can’t be without him any longer, it’s not fair for him or his family or me,” Evelyn Gross said, her voice breaking.
The release of the video coincided with the circulation by two Democratic lawmakers from Maryland, Sen. Ben Cardin and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, of a letter expressing solidarity with Alan Gross.
Several other members of Congress made brief speeches Thursday urging the Cuban government to free the American.
In an interview with Efe earlier this week, Alan’s wife, Judy Gross, called on U.S. President Barack Obama to “take the first step” toward negotiating his release.
Judy Gross, who has led several vigils outside the Cuban Interests Section in Washington to demand her husband’s freedom, said Alan has lost 100 pounds (45 kilos) behind bars and is suffering from various medical problems.
“Fifteen years for carrying cell phones, something that in another country wouldn’t be a big thing, is too much,” she said of the sentence Cuba imposed on Alan Gross.