Monday, December 3, 2012

American jailed in Cuba wants US to sign 'non-belligerency pact' to speed release

American jailed in Cuba wants US to sign 'non-belligerency pact' to
speed release
By Michael Isikoff
NBC News

HAVANA, Cuba — Three years after he was arrested in Havana, jailed
American contractor Alan Gross is asking the U.S. government to sign a
"non-belligerency pact" with Cuba as a first step toward negotiating his
release, according to a Cuba policy analyst who just visited him.

Peter Kornbluh , right, stands with Alan Gross, in a picture taken on
Kornbluh's iPhone by a guard during his visit to the Havana prison where
Gross is being held.

Peter Kornbluh, a Cuba specialist at the National Security Archives, a
nonprofit research center in Washington, met with Gross for four hours
on Wednesday at the military hospital in Havana where the contractor is
being held. He said Gross appeared "extremely thin" — he has lost over
100 pounds since his arrest —and dispirited.

"He's angry, he's frustrated, he's dejected — and he wants his own
government to step up" and negotiate, said Kornbluh. "His message is
that the United States and Cuba have to sit down and have a dialogue
without preconditions. … He told me that the first meeting should result
in a non-belligerency pact being signed between the United States and Cuba."
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Gross' comments appear to represent a new tack in an aggressive public
relations campaign to win his freedom. His supporters have planned a
candlelight vigil outside the Cuban interests section in Washington
D.C., on Sunday and the U.S. Senate is poised to take up a resolution
Monday demanding his release, Gross' wife, Judy, has also become
increasingly critical of the U.S. government for not doing more to
demand that her 63-year-old husband be allowed to return home.

Jose Luis Magana / AP

Judy Gross at her home in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 29.

"He feels like a soldier in the field left to die," she said at a press
conference in Washington last week.

Gross, who worked for an Agency for International Development
contractor, was arrested by the Cubans on Dec. 3, 2009, and accused of
smuggling sophisticated satellite and other telecommunications equipment
into the country to give to the island's tiny Jewish community. Gross
has said he was only trying to increase Internet access in Cuba. But he
was convicted by a Cuban court in March of last year for crimes "against
the independence and territorial integrity of the state" and sentenced
to 15 years.

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