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Carter says he pressed for Gross’ release

JTA

March 30, 2011 | 1:11 pm

Former President Jimmy Carter discussed the case of jailed American contractor Alan Gross with Cuban officials, but said that was not the reason for his visit.

“We have spoken to some officials about Mr. Gross, but I am not here to take him out of the country,” Carter said Tuesday.

Gross, 61, was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison earlier this month for crimes against the state. Cuban authorities detained Gross in late 2009 on his way out of the country, saying he was a spy.

Carter met Tuesday with President Raul Castro and other Cuban officials. Washington had encouraged Carter to lobby on behalf of Gross.

Carter, who is well known for his activism on behalf of human rights, was on a private visit to the island nation to discuss ways to improve U.S.-Cuba relations, according to reports. On Monday he met with Cuban Jewish leaders and visited the Patronato Jewish Center and Temple Beth Shalom.

Gross’ family and State Department officials say 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.

Gross is in ill health. His daughter has breast cancer and his mother was diagnosed recently with cancer, as well.

Cuba and the United States have not had diplomatic relations since the 1960s. The U.S. has economic and financial sanctions in place against the island nation.

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