WASHINGTON – The attorney for the family of Alan Gross on Monday accused the Cuban government of “misrepresenting” what the U.S. subcontractor was doing on the island when he was arrested two years ago, and he called Havana’s explanation for his imprisonment “preposterous.”
In a statement sent to Efe, lawyer Peter J. Kahn said that the efforts of the Cuban government “to misrepresent what Alan P. Gross was doing in Cuba are an attempt to justify to the international community a 15-year prison sentence for helping Cuban Jews improve their access to the Internet.”
Last Friday, the Cuban Interests Section in Washington told Efe that Gross was imprisoned not for helping the Jewish community improve its Internet access, but rather for getting under way a “clandestine program financed” by the U.S. government.
Gross was put on trial in accordance with “all guarantees” and “because he violated Cuban laws by implementing a clandestine program financed by the U.S. government and aimed at disrupting the constitutional order in Cuba,” the interests section said.
“During his visits to Cuba, Gross never communicated to the people he contacted that he was working for a U.S. government program. The undercover activities carried out by Alan Gross in Cuba constitute crimes in many countries of the world, including the United States,” it alleged.
But on Monday, in response, Gross’s lawyer in the United States said that during his client’s trial in March in Havana, none of the Jews who gave testimony offered any information about “any action – or even a statement – by Alan that could constitute a threat to Cuba’s sovereign government.”
“Without hesitation, they all responded ‘No,’” when the defense asked “whether they witnessed, heard or knew of any subversive activity by Alan,” Kahn said.
Upon describing Gross’s activities, one of the witnesses, an elderly man, became visibly moved and said that the American showed them “the world” on the Internet and, in particular, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Kahn said.
The attorney said the suggestion by Cuban authorities was “simply preposterous” that Gross, a 62-year-old man who traveled alone, was involved in a clandestine program to disrupt “the constitutional order in Cuba.”
Gross does not speak Spanish, presented a statement to Cuban customs and “spent his days showing his fellow Jews pictures of the world and setting up a community intranet to share recipes and prayers on the Internet,” said the lawyer.
No matter what it says to the media, “the truth is that the Cuban government has refused to engage in any meaningful dialogue about a solution to Alan’s case, preferring instead to use one man and his family, who are all suffering greatly, as pawns in the continuation of more than 50 years of hostilities between Cuba and the United States,” Kahn argued.
“The Gross family remains committed to a negotiated solution in an atmosphere of mutual respect. They are hopeful that, in the spirit of Hanukkah, President Raul Castro will find it in his heart to allow them to soon be reunited with Alan,” the attorney added.
Last Saturday marked two years since Gross was imprisoned on charges of participating in subversive plans against the state for distributing communications technology among the Jewish community on the island.
At the time of his arrest, Gross, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, was working for Development Alternatives, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development.
USAID’s Cuba program, financed with $20 million for fiscal 2012, focuses its efforts on “increasing the ability of Cubans to participate in civic affairs and improve human rights conditions on the island,” says the federal agency on its Web page.
The State Department and the White House, as well as Democratic and Republican congressional leaders and representatives of civic groups have joined Gross’s family in its demand that he be released immediately for humanitarian reasons. EFE