DENVER – The wife of a Jewish American, whose husband was sentenced to 15 years in prison for subversion by a Cuban court, launched a national campaign on Tuesday aimed at obtaining his release.

Judy Gross asked the crowd assembled at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in Denver to lobby for the release of her husband, Alan Gross, who has been behind bars for almost two years.

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“We are desperate for him to return home,” she told the audience. “On the eve of the two-year anniversary of his arrest and incarceration, we want our community, our country and the world to remember that Alan Gross needs to be released from Cuba. We ask you to please join us in this effort.”

The 62-year-old Gross was sent to Havana by the United States Agency for International Development in 2009 to set up a communications center for the local Jewish community. He was arrested in December of that year by Cuban police for bringing satellite phones and laptops into the country without permission. In March 2011, a Cuban court found Gross guilty of subversion and sentenced him to 15 years in prison.

Talks between Washington and Havana hit a wall last month when the Caribbean nation demanded the release of five of its citizens serving sentences in US prisons in exchange for Gross.

“We will certainly say unequivocally that the US is not considering the release of any member of the Cuban Five in exchange,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was quoted as saying by AFP. “[Gross] is not a spy, and it is simply not comparable with the crimes of the Cuban Five in any way.”

In light of the impasse, his wife asked the audience to “contact your members of Congress and tell them to take action on Alan’s behalf. Tell everyone you know about Alan. Write letters to your newspapers. Let the Cuban government know that the Jewish community wants Alan home.”

She reminded the Jewish audience that her husband went to Cuba to help the local Jewish community.

“That Alan has been convicted of crimes against the state of Cuba – and that he has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for helping the Jewish community share prayers and look at images of Jerusalem, is beyond any sense of reason,” she said. “It is inhumane and it is unjust.”


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