WASHINGTON (JTA) — The first contributions to a new legal defense fund for Jews seen as being held wrongfully because of their Jewishness will go to help Alan Gross, who is imprisoned in Cuba.
Launched by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, the fund will help cover the defense of Jews in the United States and throughout the world who the council believes have been wrongfully charged or imprisoned. Funds also will be used to cover costs associated with advocating for the prisoners.
The council cited the Jewish value of "pidyon shvuyim," or redeeming the captive, in a statement Wednesday announcing the fund.
Contributions, which are tax deductible, cannot be earmarked for a particular person.
Gross, who has been jailed in Cuba since December 2009, is serving a 15-year sentence for "crimes against the state."
According to the Gross family and the U.S. State Department, the Maryland man was in Cuba on a U.S. Agency for International Development contract to help connect the island country’s 1,500-strong Jewish community with other Jewish communities via the Internet.
The JCRC of Greater Washington has been advocating on Gross’ behalf, organizing vigils and spearheading legislation to help free the contractor.
A U.S. congressional delegation in Cuba this week is pressing for his release.