Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is leading a congressional effort to free an American contractor for the State Department who was arrested en route home from Cuba one year ago.
Alan Gross, who entered Cuba on a tourist visa, has been described in press reports as an “independent consultant” to the Agency for International Development.
The Potomac, Md., businessman was reportedly in Cuba to assist its 1,500-member Jewish community in communicating with other Jews via the Internet. He was seized on Dec. 3 at Havana’s Jose Marti Airport.
Although Gross has not been officially charged, the president of Cuba’s National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, has publicly accused him of spying for American government “secret services.”
Adela Dworin, president of Cuba’s largest synagogue, told the Miami newspaper El Nuevo Herald she had no knowledge of Gross.
Marking the anniversary, Menendez charged the Castro government was “using Alan Gross as a pawn in an absurd diplomatic game. The Castros somehow believe this episode will engender international sympathy for their iron-fisted rule. Instead, it merely serves to underscore their commitment to oppressing the Cuban people by denying them access to communication tools, punishing free speech, and imprisoning an innocent American.”
The senator, who is a Cuban-American, is an opponent of liberalizing United States relations with the island nation.
Menendez said he would continue working with the State Department “to secure Mr. Gross’s release and achieve a free, open, and democratic society in Cuba.”
Gross’s attorney, Peter Kahn, said in the past year Gross has suffered from gout and lost 90 pounds. His 26-year old daughter has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Alan’s incarceration for a year without clarity of the legal process he will face or its timing is a travesty,” said his attorney, Peter Kahn. “It violates every international standard of justice and due process. We continue to urge the Cuban authorities to release Alan immediately based on humanitarian grounds, as well as the fact that he has already served one year in a Cuban prison.”
This story was prepared with the assistance of JTA.