(AFP)–September 11, 2012, 3pm
WASHINGTON — Lawyers for a US government contractor imprisoned in Cuba said Tuesday they have asked a UN working group on arbitrary detentions to press for their client’s release.
Alan Gross, 63, has been in prison since December 2009 for distributing laptops and communications equipment to Cuba’s small Jewish community, under a US State Department contract.
His wife Judy, who recently visited her husband, said in a statement she was “devastated by his appearance.” “Alan’s health continues to deteriorate. He has lost 105 pounds and developed degenerative arthritis and a mass behind his right shoulder blade. While his spirit remains strong, I fear he is not going to survive this terrible ordeal,” she said.
“I beg President (Raul) Castro, as a husband and father himself, to put an end to our anguish and let Alan come home to his loving family, including his dying mother,” she said.
The Cuban government has insisted that Gross’s health is “normal,” and that he is being held in a military hospital, not a prison. Gross was found guilty in March 2011 and sentenced to 15 years in prison for “acts against the independence or territorial integrity” of the communist-ruled island.
His lawyers said they had asked the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to take up his case and press for his release, citing “violations of international law” in his case. “Furthermore, the Working Group should urge for Mr Gross’s immediate release and compensation for his wrongful conviction,” the lawyers said. In a brief submitted to the working group, they said Gross had made five trips to Cuba to distribute computers and each time had declared them in customs, even getting receipts for the customs duties he paid. He was arrested on his fifth trip on December 3, 2009.