On the eve of meetings in Havana, wife of imprisoned American reaches out

The wife of a U.S. government contractor imprisoned in Havana for almost three months and accused by senior Cuban officials of being a spy appeals for the release of her husband, who she says is innocent of any wrongdoing. This is the unedited video Judy Gross has released to the media.
By William Booth
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, February 19, 2010

MEXICO CITY -- The wife of a U.S. government contractor imprisoned in Havana for more than two months and accused of espionage by senior Cuban officials appealed Thursday for the release of her husband, who she said was innocent of wrongdoing.

In a video released to the media, and later in an interview with The Washington Post, Judy Gross said her husband, Alan P. Gross, had worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development helping the communist-led country's tiny Jewish population connect to the Internet.

"Alan has done nothing wrong, and we need him home," said Judy Gross, a psychotherapist who works at a Washington area hospital and lives with her husband in Potomac.

The 60-year-old contractor, who was working in Cuba on a tourist visa and possessed satellite communications equipment, was arrested Dec. 3 and is being held in a maximum security prison. State Department officials have tried repeatedly to see him but have been granted only two visits. Gross has not been charged with a crime.

Judy Gross timed her appeal to coincide with meetings to be held Friday in Havana between Cuban officials and State Department diplomats about immigration issues. The delegation will be led by Craig Kelly, deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs and the most senior U.S. official to travel to Cuba in years.

"The focus is migration," but the Gross case "is an issue we raise with the Cubans at every opportunity," said Gloria Berbena, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

The U.S. government's response to Gross's detention has been low-key, while the Cubans have been more bellicose, suggesting the two sides may be angling for diplomatic advantage.

"I believe the Cubans arrested him to force the U.S. government to focus on the provocative nature of these aid programs, which are designed to push for regime change," said Julia Sweig, director of the Latin America program at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

Judy Gross said she has spoken with her husband three times by telephone, for a minute or two each time. She said her husband was a humanitarian who had worked in 50 countries and helped people find work and build schools.

U.S. officials "have been very helpful to me and are trying to work with me," Judy Gross said. "I hope they can work with the Cuban government and bring him home."

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