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February 27, 2011 3:46 am

Jewish Leaders Call on Cuba’s Castro to Free Jewish Prisoner

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Cuban President Raul Castro. Photo: Valter Campanato

A major Jewish umbrella organization has sent an appeal to President Raul Castro of Cuba to release a Jewish Prisoner on humanitarian grounds, and allow him to be reunited with his family in the United States.

In the letter to President Castro, Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein focused on Prisoner Alan P. Gross’ commitment to the Jewish community and the people of Cuba. “Mr. Gross has long been an active and committed member of the Jewish community in the United States. His work has touched and improved the lives of thousands of people. Mr. Gross believed he was advancing his humanitarian work in Cuba,” the letter stated.

The letter also requests that President Castro consider Gross’ health and family circumstances. Gross has lost 90 pounds and is suffering from serious physical ailments, as well as from extreme mental stress and anguish because of his daughter’s bout with cancer.

Gross, who has been held in a Cuban jail since December 3, 2009, was only charged earlier this month with “Acts against the Independence and Territorial Integrity of the State.” A trial date was set yesterday for March 4th. If convicted, Gross could face up to 20 years in prison. According to Gross’ family and U.S. State Department officials, he was in Cuba to help the Jewish community communicate with other Jews through the Internet. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley has said that what Gross did “is not a crime.”

“We have addressed a letter to President Obama, and requested as well a meeting with Cuban officials to discuss Mr. Gross’ plight. We are now appealing directly to President Castro. We hope that he will recognize that Mr. Gross’ project was purely humanitarian in nature with no political motivations, and that he will allow Mr. Gross’ prompt release. Mr. Gross was held in prison for nearly 14 months before being charged. Should he be convicted in his upcoming trial, we hope that President Castro will release him for time served,” the chairman said.

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  • Robert Annable

    Mr. Gross meets the US definition of a spy and I hope he gets a 20 year sentence that may force the US to trade him for the Cuban Five, who were only trying to stop terrorist attacks against Cuba by Miami Cuban exile
    groups. Gross entered Cuba on a tourist visa and was funded by State Dept/CIA money. Their would be no trial if the US also gave them murderer Posada Carriles who bombed a Cuban civilian plane killing 79 innocents. The Cuban Five have been in prison for five years and the US would not allow any family members visit them. This has apparently changed since Cuba allowed Mr. Gross’ wife visit him. What hypocrites!!

  • Lisa Brooks

    Why doesn’t the US release the Cuban Five who were arrested for keeping an eye on the right-wing Cuban terrorist exiles who have committed terrorist acts in Cuba…including the blowing up of a Cuban civilian airliner in the 1970s. I hardly see how their being here to monitor them is a crime. Isn’t that what the US claims to do in other countries like Pakistan. I think that Gross is a CIA contractor, like Raymond Davis and Aaron Dehaven, and he got busted. The Cubans would be stupid to not keep Gross until America frees the Cuban Five.

  • Mr. Gross’ plight is due directly to his connection with USAID program and the resulting activities he conducted in Cuba. Contrary to the State Department allegations those activities were illegal and directly against the independence and sovereignty of the state and therefore criminal. Mr. Gross has been an active member of the Jewish community in the US and he must have known that said community legally assists the Cuban Jewish community including supplying computers and cell phones. US Jewish groups visit and assist the Cuban Jewish community. However, Mr. Gross’ lone activities tragically went far beyond the community. He was supplying sophisticated satellite equipment to participants of a program funded by USAID and designed for regime change, euphemistically called “promotion of democracy”. He must or should have known the illegality of his actions and as an experience traveller the sensitivity of governments anywhere to his type of activities especially those funded by a hostile government. Even the most naive person who has travelled to Cuba and Mr. Gross went several times before his arrest, could see that the best humanitarian help the 11 million Cubans could receive is the end of the US embargo and the dismantling of the US anti-Cuban policy.