(JTA) — Jewish leaders have called on the Cuban government to release Jewish U.S. government contractor Alan Gross, jailed for more than a year, for time served.
Leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Monday issued their humanitarian appeal to the Cuban government following the completion of Gross’ two-day trial over the weekend. A verdict has not been released but is expected within the next few days.
“We are disappointed that the prosecution presented Mr. Gross as attempting to destabilize the Cuban government when the project he was working on in Cuba was aimed at helping communication in the local Jewish community," said Presidents Conference Chairman Alan Solow and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein. "As we mentioned in the appeal we sent to President of Cuba Raul Castro prior to the trial, Mr. Gross has managed multiple humanitarian projects around the world and believed he was advancing his humanitarian work in Cuba. He has already been held in prison for more than 15 months and we urge President Castro to release him for time served and allow him to be reunited with his family, especially his sick daughter.”
Gross’ trial for allegedly perpetrating "acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the state" finished March 4. Gross, 61, who is in ill health, could face up to 20 years in prison. His daughter has breast cancer and his mother was diagnosed recently with cancer, as well.
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 he 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.