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Cuban court upholds Alan Gross sentence

JTA

August 5, 2011 | 2:21 pm

Cuba’s Supreme Court upheld a 15-year sentence for Alan Gross, the U.S. contractor held for what the Obama administration has said was his Jewish outreach.

Gross, 62, who was jailed for “crimes against the state,” was convicted and sentenced in May. The high court heard an appeal last month and delivered its decision Friday.

Reuters reported that the court rejected Gross’ claim, made in an appearance last month,  that he had not intended any harm.

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 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.

His American lawyer, Peter Kahn, said the family’s hope was that Cuba would release Gross for humanitarian reasons or through a deal with the United States.

“While we are not surprised, we are extremely disappointed with today’s ruling, which marks the end of Alan’s legal process in Cuba,” he said in a statement. “Now, more than ever, we call upon the two countries to resolve their dispute over Alan’s activities diplomatically, and request that President Raúl Castro release Alan immediately on humanitarian grounds.”

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

DAI, the Maryland-based U.S. government contractor that subcontracted Gross for the Cuba mission, said it was “bitterly disappointed” with the verdict.

“Alan Gross has done nothing more than help peaceful people gain access to the Internet, and for that he has already served more than a year and a half in prison,” it said in a statement. “Despite today’s ruling, we urge that the Cuban government take into account the medical situation confronting Alan and his family, and quickly allow him to come home.”

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