WASHINGTON (JTA) – A bipartisan group of U.S. senators asked Cuban President Raul Castro to release jailed American contractor Alan Gross.
Led by Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), 44 senators in a letter to Castro called Gross’ imprisonment a “major obstacle” to bilateral relations.
“Mr. Gross’s ongoing detention in your country presents a major obstacle to any further actions to improve our bilateral relations,” said the letter, which was dated Sept. 24.
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.
Earlier this month, a Cuban Foreign Ministry official rejected claims by Gross’ wife, Judy, that he was in ill health and said Cuba was willing to negotiate his release with U.S. officials.
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 has cancer.