WASHINGTON (JTA) – Alan Gross, who was imprisoned for five years in Cuba for his work connecting its Jewish community to the Internet, marked the one-year anniversary of his release pledging to advance warmer U.S.-Cuba ties.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Gross thanked those who supported him while in prison and announced he will soon be a grandfather for the first time.
“I am also gratified to witness a newfound diplomatic relationship between Cuba and the United States,” said Gross, 66, who was a subcontractor for the U.S. government when he was arrested in 2009 and later sentenced to 15 years for crimes against the state.
“I hope this new – and historic – relationship continues to evolve in a positive way. While I served as an involuntary catalyst for this change, I hope now to help foster continued good relations between our countries and our citizens.”
Gross, a Jewish-American from Potomac, Maryland, was released as part of a complicated deal that involved the release in Cuba of an unnamed American spy and in the United States of three imprisoned members of a spy ring.
President Barack Obama also used the exchange to launch renewed ties with Cuba that were frozen for over 50 years.