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December 17, 2014 11:01 am

Free at Last: Jewish Leader Welcomes Release of Jewish Contractor Alan Gross in Cuban-American Prisoner Exchange

avatar by Ben Cohen

Alan Gross, in happier times, visiting Jerusalem.

Alan Gross, in happier times, visiting Jerusalem.

American -Jewish aid worker Alan Gross has been released from Cuban prison after serving a five year sentence. Gross was freed in exchange for the release of three Cuban agents imprisoned in America.

Gross, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development who went to Cuba to help the Jewish community there access the Internet, received a 15-year prison sentence for what the Cuban government called “crimes against the state.” He marked his fifth year of incarceration on Dec. 3, and his health has deteriorated drastically, according to his family, JNS.org reported.

Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations who has been intimately involved with efforts to secure Gross’s release, told The Algemeiner that he was “delighted by the reports of the long overdue release. We pray for his quick return to his family  so he can celebrate with them the festival of Chanukah, a festival of freedom and justice.”

Gross’s release “always hinged on the U.S. release of the three Cuban agents,” Hoenlein said. “We met with Cuban officials about this over the past five years and that was always their bottom line.”

The Cuban prisoners exchanged for Gross are reportedly members of the “Cuban Five,” a group of men who were part of a network sent by former Cuban president Fidel Castro to spy on the U.S. from south Florida. In 2001, they were convicted of conspiracy and failure to register as foreign agents.

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