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U.S. lawmakers in Cuba to push for release of Gross

(JTA) — A U.S. congressional delegation is in Cuba to press for the release of imprisoned American-Jewish contractor Alan Gross.

Seven lawmakers led by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) arrived in Cuba on Monday for a three-day visit, according to Reuters.

The delegation plans to meet with Gross, as well as parliament president Ricardo Alarcon, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and possibly President Raul Castro.

Leahy met with Gross one year ago during a visit to the island nation. During a meeting that same day with Castro, the president brought up the case of five Cuban agents serving long jail terms in the United States. Cuba has linked Gross’ release to the fate of the so-called Cuban Five, according to reports.

The delegation would like to bring Gross back to the United States with them, Leahy has said.

Gross was arrested in December 2009 as he was leaving Cuba for “crimes against the state” for distributing laptop computers and connecting Cuban Jews to the Internet. He spoke virtually no Spanish and traveled to Cuba five times under his own name before his arrest.

Gross’ family and U.S. State Department officials say that 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.
 

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