(AFP) MIAMI — The wife jailed US contractor Alan Gross took part in a Florida protest Sunday seeking her husband’s release from a Cuba prison, as some 500 rabbis from around the world appealed to Havana on his behalf. The demonstration was held outside an amphitheater in West Palm Beach, where Cuba’s national symphony orchestra was giving a concert. “I am here today not to protest, but to rally for my husband’s freedom, at the performance of the Cuban Symphony Orchestra,” Judy Gross said in remarks released ahead of the event. “My message to Havana is simple: the fastest way to open relations between the United States and Cuba and to promote important people-to-people exchanges is to free my husband.”
Meanwhile, more than 500 rabbis from 36 US states and 12 countries sent a letter to Raul Castro, calling on the Cuban president to free Gross. “We would urge your government to release Mr. Gross on humanitarian grounds,” the letter read, expressing concern over his deteriorating health. “If despite his and his family’s suffering over the past three years in prison you remain determined to detain him, we would urge you to allow a doctor of his choosing to evaluate and treat him for whatever medical conditions that he may have.”
Gross suffers from numerous medical ailments, including degenerative arthritis, and there are reports he has has lost more than 100 pounds (45 kilos) in prison. He was arrested in December 2009 for distributing laptops and communications equipment to members of Cuba’s small Jewish community under a US State Department contract. He was found guilty in March 2011 of “acts against the independence or territorial integrity” of Cuba and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Cuba has indicated that they would consider releasing Gross if the United States frees members of the Cuban Five espionage ring. Those five men were found guilty in 2001 of trying to infiltrate US military installations in southern Florida and were given long jail terms, ranging from 15 years to life. Cuba has acknowledged the five were intelligence agents but says they were gathering information on “terrorist” plots by Cuban expatriates in Florida, not spying on the US government. Gross, meanwhile, has always denied the charges against him, and Washington has continued to press Havana for his release.