US Jewish contractor appeals conviction to Cuban court

Imprisoned US aid contractor Alan Gross speaks during appeal against 15-year sentence for crimes against Cuban state.

alan gross_311 reuters (photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)
alan gross_311 reuters
(photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)
NEW YORK – Jailed Jewish-American aid contractor Alan Gross told Cuba’s Supreme Court on Friday he had no intentions of hurting the Cuban government or people.
Gross, who was found guilty in February of undermining the state and sentenced to 15 years in prison, said he was innocent and thankful for the opportunity to appeal the verdict.
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“We remain hopeful that the ruling from Cuba’s Supreme Court is one that will allow Alan promptly to be reunited with his family after having served nearly 20 months in a Cuban prison,” Peter J. Kahn, who represents Gross in the US, said. “At the same time, we continue to call on the Cuban authorities to consider Alan’s difficult family situation and release him immediately on humanitarian grounds.
Gross was sent to Cuba by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to help set up a communications center for the Jewish community in Havana.
He was arrested while leaving Cuba in December 2009, on charges of smuggling forbidden satellite phones and lying in his visa application. Cuba claims Gross was part of a covert operation organized by the US to undermine the government.
At the hearing on Friday, attorney Nuris Pinero told the court that his client’s arrest was not warranted by either the law or the facts.
Since his arrest, observers have speculated that Havana is using Gross as a bargaining chip to obtain the release of several of its citizens held by the US on charges of espionage.