American Alan Gross has been released from prison in Cuba after five years. The release was based on humanitarian grounds.
Will you offer us a hand? Every gift, regardless of size, fuels our future.
Your critical contribution enables us to maintain our independence from shareholders or wealthy owners, allowing us to keep up reporting without bias. It means we can continue to make Jewish Business News available to everyone.
You can support us for as little as $1 via PayPal at email@example.com.
Gross was arrested by the Cuban government for espionage in December of 2009 while working for the U.S. Agency for International Development in that country. In 2011 he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years for bringing telecommunication devices into Cuba.
The 65 year old who is suffering from arthritis is already on his way home. He was released as part of a prisoner exchange. The U.S. Has agreed to the release of three Cuban nationals convicted of espionage, also on humanitarian grounds.
The news comes just days after Gross’ wife Judy said in a statement, ““Enough is enough. My husband has paid a terrible price for serving his country and community.”
President Obama had recently stated in an interview, “We’ve been in conversations about how we can get Alan Gross home for quite some time. We continue to be concerned about him. We think that he shouldn’t have been held in the first place. With respect to Cuba generally, I’ve made very clear that the policies that we have in making remittances easier for Cuban families, and making it easier for families to travel, have been helpful to people inside Cuba… But the Cuban government still needs to make significant changes.”
The exchange is being heralded by some as a major shift in America’s relationship with Cuba, which has been hostile for more than fifty years.
We received the following report from JNS:
Jewish-American aid worker Alan Gross has been released from Cuban prison after five years, major media outlets reported Wednesday morning, citing United States officials. The U.S. secured Gross’s freedom in exchange for the release of three Cubans imprisoned in America.
Gross, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development who went to Cuba to help the Jewish community there access the Internet, received a 15-year prison sentence for what the Cuban government called “crimes against the state.” He marked his fifth year of incarceration on Dec. 3, and his health has deteriorated drastically, according to his family.
The Associated Press reported that in addition to the prisoner exchange, the U.S. and Cuba would begin talks to normalize diplomatic relations for the first time in half a century, and that America would open an embassy in the Cuban capital of Havana.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) had expressed optimism about Gross’s future upon visiting Gross in November.
“I do feel we are closer [to Gross’s freedom], ” Flake said last month. “One, because of what Alan Gross has said himself. This is going to end one way or another. We have gone on five years and any benefit the Cuban government may have seen has to have evaporated.”
The Cuban prisoners exchanged for Gross are reportedly members of the “Cuban Five, ” a group of men sent by former Cuban president Fidel Castro to spy on the U.S. from south Florida. In 2001, they were convicted of conspiracy and failure to register as foreign agents.
Jewish organizations had advocated for Gross’s freedom throughout the duration of his imprisonment.
“For the past several years, the OU has prayed, rallied, and lobbied in support of Alan’s release, ” the Orthodox Union said in a statement. “Our joy upon receiving the news of his freedom is enhanced as we note that this week synagogues around the nation and around the world read the Torah portion, Miketz, that recounts the release of Joseph from his own unjust imprisonment in ancient Egypt. We are certain this will prove to be a most joyous Chanukah for Alan Gross and his family.”
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told The Algemeiner that Gross’s release “always hinged on the U.S. release of the three Cuban agents.”
“We met with Cuban officials about this over the past five years and that was always their bottom line, ” Hoenlein said.