A U.S. government contractor that the State Department says was assisting Cuban Jews will go on trial in Cuba next month.
Alan Gross was charged on Feb. 4 with “Acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the State.” The charge carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence; he could have faced the death penalty according to Cuban law.
U.S. officials will attend the trial, which will likely be in front of a panel of judges, Reuters reported. The trial is expected to last a couple of days.
Cuban authorities detained Gross in late 2009 on his way out of the country, saying he was a spy.
Gross’ family and State Department officials say he 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 through the Internet.
The main Jewish groups in Cuba have denied any contact with or knowledge of Gross or the program.
Gross reportedly is being held in a military hospital; he is suffering from health problems and is reported to have lost 90 pounds.
On Thursday, Gross’ wife, Judy, pleaded with the Cuban government to release her husband on humanitarian grounds. Gross’ daughter, 26, has breast cancer, and his mother has been diagnosed with lung cancer.