US urges Cuba to free jailed American contractor

February 20th, 2010 - 11:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 20 (IANS/EFE) The US government has called on Cuban authorities to immediately release American contractor Alan Gross, who has been jailed in Havana since Dec 4 on espionage charges.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs, Craig Kelly, who headed the US delegation at immigration talks with Cuban officials Friday in Havana, raised the matter on the sidelines of the meeting, the US State Department said in a press release.

Gross, 60, is a subcontractor working for USAID, which has supported a non-presence democracy programme for Cuba since 1996 to promote a peaceful transition to self-determined democracy on the island.

He was held for allegedly distributing laptops, cellular phones and other communication equipment on the communist-ruled island.

In January, Cuban parliament speaker Ricardo Alarcon said Gross had been “hired by a firm (Development Alternatives Inc.) that has contracts with the US secret services” as part of Washington’s “privatisation of war”.

Cuban President Raul Castro said in a speech in December that the suspect had been “euphemistically” described by Washington as a government “contractor”.

Castro also said then that the man was engaged in “the illegal supply of sophisticated communications equipment” to elements that Washington hopes will subvert Cuban society.

The US government, however, has denied that Gross was associated with its intelligence services.

The formal request for Gross’s release came after the man’s wife, Judy Gross, told EFE she was urging the two nations’ governments to reach “a mutual accord” that would allow her husband to return home.

Judy Gross said that since her husband’s arrest she has only been able to speak “very briefly” with him on three occasions, while State Department representatives have visited him twice.

Though the US and Cuba have not had diplomatic relations since 1961, the two countries established interests section in each other’s capitals in 1977.

–IANS/EFE

snb/vm

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