NEW YORK (JTA) — An online petition to free the Jewish American contractor Alan Gross garnered almost 1,000 signatures in its first day.
The petition launched Monday appeals to Cuba’s leadership to release Gross on humanitarian grounds before the Jewish High Holidays begin with Rosh HaShanah on Sept. 29. Gross, 62, is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba for “crimes against the state” for distributing laptop computers and connecting Cuban Jews to the Internet.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington sponsored the petition.
Gross was arrested in 2009 as he was leaving Cuba and accused of being a spy. His appeal was rejected recently by the island nation’s Supreme Court, and now the only legal avenue left available is for the commutation of his sentence by President Raul Castro.
Since his incarceration, Gross reportedly has lost approximately 100 pounds and is suffering from partial paralysis, as well as other ailments. His daughter has breast cancer and his mother was diagnosed with cancer as well.