Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Release Alan Gross


Release Alan Gross
Published: March 20, 2012

When he was arrested in Havana in late 2009, Alan Gross, a subcontractor
for the United States Agency for International Development, was helping
Cuba's Jewish community get better access to the Internet. A Cuban court
last year found him guilty of participating in a "subversive project of
the U.S. government that aimed to destroy the revolution through the use
of communications systems out of the control of authorities," and
sentenced him to 15 years in prison. He has languished in a military
hospital ever since. His lawyer says he has lost more than 100 pounds
and suffers from severe arthritis. As an act of mercy, the Cuban
government should release Mr. Gross.

We hope that when Pope Benedict XVI visits the island next week, he will
urge its president, Raúl Castro, to do so. The pope must press the Cuban
leader to end the harassment of dissidents and tell him that the world
has not forgotten the Cuban people's yearning for freedom.

Only in a repressive country like Cuba would Mr. Gross's efforts be
characterized as a threat to the state. Full access to information and
communications is a human right. Mr. Gross did misrepresent himself when
he entered the country on a tourist visa and did bring in communications
equipment without a license. But a 15-year sentence for those violations
is absurd and inhumane.

Cuba has tried to use Mr. Gross as a chip to get the United States to
release the "Cuban Five" — five men convicted in 2001 of spying on
anti-Castro exiles. There is no comparison, but some compromise should
be possible. One of the five, René González, is on parole, and a federal
judge in Miami has now agreed he can return to Cuba for two weeks to
visit a brother who has cancer. Cuban officials should immediately allow
Mr. Gross to return to the United States to visit his mother, who has
cancer. Once both men are home, an agreement to keep them home should be

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