U.S. Urges Cuba to Free Alan Gross for His Mother's Funeral
United States urges Cuba to allow imprisoned contractor to travel home
to attend his mother's funeral as a humanitarian gesture.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 6/19/2014, 5:44 AM
The United States called on Cuba on Wednesday to allow imprisoned
contractor Alan Gross to travel home to attend his mother's funeral as a
humanitarian gesture, AFP reports.
Gross, 65, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in Cuba in 2011 after
being convicted of "acts against the independence or territorial
integrity of the state" for allegedly distributing communications
equipment as a contractor for USAID.
Washington has repeatedly called for his release, and on Wednesday State
Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki offered "our deepest and sincerest
condolences" following the news that his 92-year-old mother, Evelyn, had
died after a long battle with lung cancer.
"We obviously feel it is a tragedy that he was unable to be home in the
United States at his mother's bedside for her passing," Psaki was quoted
by AFP as having told reporters.
"We've urged the Cuban government to grant Mr. Gross a humanitarian
furlough so that he can travel to the United States and be with his
family during this time of mourning."
Psaki would not say whether Washington would provide guarantees that
Gross would return to Havana to serve the rest of his sentence.
Gross's family said the news of his mother's death "is a devastating
blow for Alan and our family."
"I am extremely worried that now Alan will give up all hope of ever
coming home and do something drastic," his wife Judy said in a statement.
"Surely, there must be something President (Barack) Obama can do to
secure Alan's immediate release," she added.
The family said Cuban officials had refused to give Gross a chance to
visit his mother while she was still alive, despite repeated pleas after
she was diagnosed with cancer.
Gross ended an eight-day hunger strike on April 11 to press for his
release from prison. That hunger strike ended after a telephone
conversation with his mother.
Gross's family and US officials have also raised concerns about his own
health. He was arrested in 2009 and is said to have lost more than 100
pounds (45 kilos) in weight. He suffers from chronic pain and the family
are concerned that he is losing his will to live.
The Cuban government has expressed its willingness to free Gross in
exchange for the United States free the so-called "Cuban Five",
intelligence agents convicted in a 1998 U.S. spy case.
Havana acknowledges the five men - two of whom have been released after
serving their sentences - were agents but says they were spying on
"terrorist" exiles and hails them as national heroes.
Secretary of State John Kerry has said in the past that Washington would
work to free Gross but outright rejected a deal with Havana to swap him
for the five Cuban spies.
Source: U.S. Urges Cuba to Free Gross for Mother's Funeral - News from
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