Cuba says Gross in ‘normal’ health, willing to negotiate his release

(JTA) — A Cuban Foreign Ministry official rejected claims by the wife of Alan Gross that the jailed American contractor was in ill health and said Cuba was willing to negotiate his release with U.S. officials.

“The state of health of Mr. Gross continues being normal and he regularly does intense physical exercises,” Foreign Ministry official Josefina Vidal said in a statement Wednesday.

Vidal added that Cuba reiterates its willingness "to find a solution in the case of Mr. Gross and continues to await an answer," The Associated Press reported.

Gross, 63, of Potomac, Md., was sentenced last year to 15 years in prison for "crimes against the state." He was arrested in 2009 for allegedly bringing satellite phones and computer equipment to members of Cuba’s Jewish community.

Jared Genser, an attorney for the Gross family, said in a statement released Thursday that the Cuban government has not worked to resolve the case.

"My independent conversations with officials at the White House, State Department, and on Capitol Hill make clear that the Cuban government has been repeatedly asked through formal and informal channels to explain how Alan Gross’s case can be resolved," the statement said. "It has been consistently reported to me that Cuban government officials have been unwilling to put a concrete proposal on the table. I truly want nothing more than to be proven wrong. If Ms. Vidal is serious, I would urge her to convey through diplomatic channels a clear proposal to initiate meaningful discussions with the United States to secure Alan’s release."

Genser added that "If, as Ms. Vidal asserts, his health situation is indeed ‘normal,’ then the Cuban government should have never objected to allowing him to have a doctor of his choosing visit him and conduct an independent physical examination. Its repeated failure to allow such an examination raises serious doubt about the validity of the medical examinations provided by Cuban doctors, who happen to be employed by the very same government which imprisoned him in the first place."

Judy Gross said in a statement released by the family’s lawyers Tuesday, just after she returned from a four-day trip to Cuba, that "While his spirit remains strong, I fear he is not going to survive this terrible ordeal."

Gross reportedly has lost more than 100 pounds since his arrest and his family says he is suffering from degenerative arthritis. His mother is dying and one of his daughters is battling cancer.

Cuban officials say they have suggested previously a prisoner swap in which Gross would be exchanged for five Cuban spies, four of whom have been jailed in the United States on spying charges for 14 years. One of the convicted spies was allowed to return to Cuba last year to serve out his three-year probation period.

 

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