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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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