WASHINGTON (JTA) – Alan Gross, an American contractor jailed in Cuba, told its Supreme Court he never had any intention of harming Cuba’s government or people.
Gross, 62, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence for "crimes against the state," was convicted and sentenced in May. He was in the country distributing laptop computers and connecting Cuban Jews to the Internet.
The country’s Supreme Court heard an appeal on Friday.
"Alan Gross’ appeal was argued before the Cuban Supreme Court earlier today by his Cuban attorney, Nuris Pinero," said a statement from his American lawyer, Peter Kahn. "Alan was grateful to have been permitted to be present for today’s argument and to have had the opportunity to make a brief statement to the Court. Alan reiterated that he never had any intention of hurting the Cuban government or its people, and that he has always believed — and still does so today — in the sovereignty of the Cuban nation and its people."
Cuban authorities detained Gross in late 2009 on his way out of the country, saying he was a spy.
Gross’ family and State Department officials say Gross was in the country on a U.S. Agency for International Development contract to help the country’s 1,500 Jews communicate with other Jewish communities using the Internet.
The main Jewish groups in Cuba have denied any contact with or knowledge of Gross or the program.
Gross is in ill health. His daughter has breast cancer and his mother was diagnosed recently with cancer, as well.