Cuba sentenced Jewish American aid contractor Alan P. Gross to 15 years in prison on Saturday for engaging in “subversive” activities, a decision which was strongly condemned by Washington.

Gross had been arrested by Cuban authorities last year and charged with secretly delivering satellite phones to the Jewish community on the island and entering the country on the wrong visa.

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“We deplore this ruling,” Philip J. Crowley, the State Department spokesman, was quoted by the media as saying.

“Alan Gross is a dedicated international development worker who has devoted his life to helping people in more than 50 countries.

He was in Cuba to help the Cuban people connect with the rest of the world.”

“Today’s sentencing adds another injustice to Alan Gross’s ordeal,” Tommy Vietor, the US National Security Council spokesman said in a statement. “He has already spent too many days in detention and should not spend one more. We urge the immediate release of Mr.

Gross so that he can return home to his wife and family.”

Several Jewish groups including the Conference of Presidents of Major North American Organizations and the American Jewish Committee have petitioned Havana since his arrest, calling for his immediate release.

Gross, 61, was convicted of “acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the state” for working to set up clandestine Internet networks for Cuba dissidents using “sophisticated” communications technology.

Prosecutors sought a 20- year sentence for the longtime development worker, who has been jailed since his arrest in Havana on December 3, 2009. US officials had contended from the beginning that Gross was only setting up Internet access for the island’s small Jewish community.

Few details of the trial have been released, but the television report said Gross told the court he had been “used and manipulated” by DAI, the Maryland-based company that had contracted him to work in Cuba.

DAI had a contract from the US Agency for International Development to conduct projects aimed at promoting political change on the Caribbean island.

Since Gross was arrested, speculation has been rife that he is being used as a bargaining card by Havana in return for several Cuban spies in US custody.

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