Cuban court studying appeal from Jewish US contractor

Alan Gross' family say it will hold special seder to raise awareness about his imprisonment; former top Cuban judge discusses case.

alan gross_311 reuters (photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)
alan gross_311 reuters
(photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)
HAVANA - Cuba's highest court has received an appeal by US aid contractor Alan Gross seeking to overturn a 15-year jail sentence handed down last month for crimes against the Cuban state, the head of the court said on Saturday.
Ruben Remigio Ferro, president of the Supreme Tribunal, told reporters the appeal had been filed in recent days by lawyers for Gross, who was accused of helping set up unauthorized Internet access for Cuban dissidents.
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"There is an appeal presented. It is at the disposition of the judges who are attending the case," Remigio Ferro told reporters while watching a military parade in Havana on Saturday.
He would not speculate on when the court would rule on the appeal, saying it still had to be analyzed.
Remigio Ferro gave no further details, but there were earlier reports Gross' lawyers argued during his March trial he should only have been accused of visa violations because he entered Cuba on a tourist visa instead of work visa.
He was convicted of the more serious crime of "acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the state."
The family of Gross, a Jewish-American, will host a special Passover seder on Monday night in a bid to raise public awareness to his incarceration.
During the event, which will be held at his sister's home in the Washington DC area, family members will read from the haggadah with an emphasis on the holiday’s themes of freedom and liberty.
Gross was in Cuba working for a secretive US-funded program aimed at promoting political change on the communist-led island. He has been jailed since his arrest in Havana in December 2009.
Cuban leaders view the program as part of ongoing US efforts to topple the government.
The United States has said Gross was only helping Jewish groups set up Internet and had committed no crime.
His wife, Judy Gross, has pleaded with the Cuban government to release her husband because their daughter and his elderly mother have cancer.