MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The family of an American man being held in Cuba for alleged crimes against the state marked a milestone on Monday.
It was December 3rd, 2009 that Maryland native Allen Gross was arrested by Cuban authorities.
Gross, who was working as a subcontractor for a USAID program, was accused of work with the U.S. government and charged with illegally bringing sophisticated communications equipment into the country. Last year he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
According to a statement from the U.S. Department of State, Gross was in Cuba setting up internet access for Cuba’s Jewish community and he was imprisoned for no reason.
“The continued, unjustifiable imprisonment of the ailing Mr. Gross is a grim reminder of the true nature of the Castro regime which brutally oppresses Cuba’s pro-democracy activists, suppresses all outside information, and maintains a stranglehold on all aspects of daily life in Cuba,” said Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart in a statement. “Mr. Gross’ imprisonment and fifteen-year sentence for attempting to bring internet access to a small group of Cubans is yet another example of the ruthless nature of the totalitarian regime.”
Due to health issues Gross, who has lost 100 pounds since his arrest, is not being held in a jail but rather at a hospital where he has access to round the clock medical assistance, before Gross ever came to the island.
Alan Gross’ wife Judy recently filed a $60 million lawsuit against the U.S. government and the Maryland-based government contractor her husband was working for at the time of his arrest.
That company, Development Alternatives Inc., was working for the U.S. Agency for International Development, the government agency that provides economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide in support of U.S. foreign policy. USAID spends millions of dollars on programs to promote democracy and political change in Cuba.
The State Department has acknowledged that Gross’ work is illegal under Cuban law. The U.S. program was created in 1996 to hasten the fall of the Castro regime.
Judy Gross said her husband should never have been sent to Cuba, and she believes it’s the government’s duty to bring him home.
Roberta Jacobson, the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Alan Gross in jail, said Cuba is using Alan Gross as leverage to change U.S. policy.
“If they believe that Mr. Gross is a bargaining chip, he’s not,” Jacobson said. “He’s not, in a policy sense, and he’s not as a human being.”
Recently, the Cuban government offered to trade Alan Gross for five convicted Cuban spies. The U.S. refused to release them.