12/03/13 - UPI.com - Excontractor jailed in Cuba: 'Abandoned' by US
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Ex-U.S. contractor Alan Gross on the fourth
anniversary of his Cuba captivity appealed to President Obama to
intercede in his case, saying he feels "abandoned."
The 64-year-old Maryland native, detained at Havana's Jose Marti
International Airport Dec. 3, 2009, said in his letter, to be delivered to
the White House Tuesday: "As I reflect on these last four years, I find
myself asking the same question -- why? Why am I still here?"
Gross was working as a U.S. Agency for International Development
contractor, bringing satellite phones, smartphones and computer equipment
to members of Cuba's Jewish community when he was arrested.
The Castro regime said he had no permit to bring the equipment into the
Gross was convicted March 12, 2011, of crimes against the Cuban state and
sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The official Prensa Latina news agency called his alleged crimes part of a
"subversive project of the U.S. government that aimed to destroy the
[Cuban] revolution through the use of communication systems out of the
control of authorities."
The U.S. State Department has said Gross is "unjustly jailed" and called
for his release. But Obama has sent no special emissaries or agreed to
negotiate over him.
"With the utmost respect, Mr. President, I fear that my government -- the
very government I was serving when I began this nightmare -- has abandoned
me," Gross said in the letter, copy of which was provided to The Washington
Post in advance of its White House delivery.
"Officials in your administration have expressed sympathy and called for my
unconditional release, and I very much appreciate that. But it has not
brought me home," Gross said.
"It is clear to me, Mr. President, that only with your personal involvement
can my release be secured," he continued.
"I know that your administration and prior administrations have taken
extraordinary steps to obtain the release of other U.S. citizens imprisoned
abroad -- even citizens who were not arrested for their work on behalf of
their country. I ask that you also take action to secure my release, for my
sake and for the sake of my family," he said.
But more than just for him, Gross added, "All Americans around the world,
military and civilian, "must not harbor any doubt that if they are taken
captive in a foreign land, our government will move heaven and earth to
secure their freedom."
Gross' wife, Judy Gross, who has criticized Obama and U.S. policy toward
Cuba, planned to lead a demonstration outside the White House in her
husband's behalf Tuesday.
The Grosses' disillusionment over what they call the administration's
lackluster efforts to free him has U.S. lawmaker support.
A bipartisan group of 66 senators, led by Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in
a letter to Obama last month Gross' case was "a matter of grave urgency."
The senators urged Obama to "act expeditiously to take whatever steps are
in the national interest to obtain his release" and said they stood "ready
to support your administration in pursuit of this worthy goal."
Gross' attorney, Scott Gilbert, told the Post Cuban officials "have made
very clear to the United States, and to us directly to pass on, that
they're willing to sit down and meet with no preconditions to discuss
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta
Jacobson blamed Cuba for the lack of movement in Gross' case.
"Some very senior people in this administration have put their minds and
attention on trying to get Alan Gross out of prison, as well as some senior
members of Congress. In the end, it is up to the Cubans, and they have not
been responsive," she said in remarks quoted by the Post.
"We continue to urge the Cuban government to release him immediately," she
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