Friday, December 3, 2010

US says release of contractor in Cuba 'long overdue'

US says release of contractor in Cuba 'long overdue'

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The State Department on Friday urged Cuba to release
a US contractor as it marked the first anniversary of his detention on
suspicion of espionage.

Alan Gross was detained December 3, 2009 on the communist-run island
reportedly while distributing cell phones, laptops and other
communications equipment in Cuba.

"It is long overdue for Cuban authorities to release Mr Gross," State
Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in a statement.

"He has languished in a Cuban jail for a full year and the Cuban
Government has yet to explain reasons for his detention or file
charges," he added.

"His arrest and continued detention without charge violate international
standards of due process and judicial procedure.

"Mr Gross is a husband, a father, and a dedicated professional with a
long history of development assistance and support to communities in
more than 50 countries.

"We are deeply concerned about his welfare, as well as that of his
family members who are eager for his return," he said after State
Department officials met with members of the family on Thursday.

US officials say Gross worked for a non-government organization
contracted by the State Department to supply computer and communications
material to civil society groups in Cuba.

They said that Gross, an international development worker, visited Cuba
to help members of the Jewish community in Havana link up with other
Jewish communities throughout the world.

The United States and Cuba have not had formal diplomatic ties since
1961, although Washington is represented by a US interest section in Havana.

Crowley added: "We have made it very clear to the Cuban government that
the continued detention of Alan Gross is a major impediment to advancing
the dialogue between our two countries."

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