HAVANA (CBSMiami) – Cuba’s “Supreme People’s Court” has rejected a plea by a Maryland man to have his sentence reduced or eliminated, after he was convicted of violating Cuban law by bringing satellite and communication equipment into the country illegally.
A report on the state-run website Cubadebate said the decision by the court is a “definitive resolution”.
Alan Phillip Gross was working for a program promoting democracy that was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which provided people on the island with satellite equipment so they could access news and information not controlled by the Cuban government.
The satellite telephones were provided to members of Cuba’s small Jewish community to help them bypass Cuba’s restrictions on access to the internet
In Cuba, it’s illegal to own unauthorized satellite equipment, and it is also illegal to import it without permission.
Cuban officials said Gross, who is Jewish, was trying to subvert their government.
Jewish groups have made repeated calls for Cuba to release Gross, whose daughter is battling breast cancer, and Obama Administration officials have repeatedly demanded Gross be released.
Gross has admitted he was working for the US funded agency, but said his only intent was to help people on the island.
Gross has been jailed since his 2009 arrest. He was tried March 4th by the Provincial Tribunal of Havana, found guilty of “acts against the independence or integrity of the state”, and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The the court has ruled, there is still one last avenue supporters can pursue.
Cuban President Raul Castro has the power to issue a pardon now that the court has ruled. There has been no indication at this point that Castro would consider taking action.