Cuban amnesty does not include Alan Gross


(JTA) — Cuba said it will release nearly 3,000 prisoners on humanitarian grounds, but did not include Jewish-American Alan Gross on the list.

Gross, a U.S. subcontractor jailed in Cuba for the last two years for "crimes against the state," is in ill health.

The prisoner amnesty, which Cuban leader Raul Castro called a humanitarian gesture, was announced late Friday.

“To receive news in the middle of Hanukkah that the Cuban authorities have once again overlooked an opportunity to release Alan on humanitarian grounds is devastating," Gross’ wife, Judy, said in a statement, CNN reported. "Our family is simply heartbroken.”

The U.S. State Department also condemned Gross’ exclusion from the list.  

"If this is correct, we are deeply disappointed and deplore the fact that the Cuban government has decided not to take this opportunity to extend this humanitarian release to Mr. Gross this holiday season, especially in light of his deteriorating health, and to put an end to the Gross family’s long plight," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Saturday.

Gross, 62, is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba for distributing laptop computers and connecting Cuban Jews to the Internet. He was arrested in 2009 as he was leaving Cuba.

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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