Cuba high court upholds US contractor’s 15-year sentence

The supreme court of Cuba (officially, the Supreme Popular Tribunal) on Aug. 5 upheld a 15-year sentence for Alan Gross, a US citizen accused of “acts against the independence or integrity of the state.” Gross was arrested in 2009 and has served 20 months of his sentence for his work as a consultant for Development Alternatives Incorporated (DAI), a business that contracts with the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Gross claims that he was aiding the Cuban Jewish community to achieve unfiltered Internet access by distributing various communications devices, while the Cuban government alleges that he was creating internal networks to foment protests on behalf of the US government.

Gross, a 62-year-old Jewish social worker and international development professional from Maryland, was arrested in Havana as he attempted to leave Cuba. No Cuban Jewish groups testified at his trial, but disavowed knowledge of Gross. The US State Department has demanded Gross’ unconditional release, and former US president Jimmy Carter visited Cuba in an attempt to negotiate Gross’ freedom.

Until recently, the historically strained relations between the US and Cuba had shown signs of improvement. President Barack Obama earlier this year ordered the Departments of State, Treasury and Homeland Security to take steps to ease restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba. The new regulations, to be promulgated as modifications of the Cuban Assets Control and Customs and Border Protection regulations, will allow greater travel from the US to Cuba for religious and educational purposes, the transfer of up to $2,000 per year to non-family members in Cuba so long as they are not senior government or Communist Party leaders, and will allow all US international airports to service charter flights between the two countries.

From Jurist, Aug. 5. Used with permission.

See our last post on Cuba.