American Stuck in Cuban Prison Sues U.S. Government

Friday, November 23, 2012
Alan Gross

Imprisoned in Cuba for doing work for the federal government, an American citizen is now suing the U.S. over his predicament.


Alan Gross, 63, was hired as a subcontractor for a project financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) that had him distributing mobile phone and wireless Internet equipment to Cuba’s Jewish community, which is illegal in the Communist island nation.


Gross made his first trip to Havana in April 2009 and a second shortly thereafter to Santiago de Cuba in southern Cuba. After returning to the United States he submitted a memo to Development Alternatives (DAI), the primary contractor, stating that his contacts in Santiago de Cuba warned him that if the project continued, everyone concerned would be “playing with fire.” DAI shared this memo with USAID.


Gross’s summary of a third trip in June included the warning that “This is very risky business in no uncertain terms. Provincial authorities are apparently very strict when it comes to unauthorized use of radio frequencies....Detection usually means confiscation of equipment and arrest of users.”


During his fifth trip to Cuba, Gross was arrested in December 2009. Finally tried in March 2011, he was convicted of participating in “a subversive project of the U.S. government that aimed to destroy the Revolution through the use of communications systems out of the control of [Cuban] authorities,” and sentenced to 15 years in prison.


Gross contends that neither USAID nor Development Alternatives fully explained to him the dangers of the work before he left for Cuba.


Gross is now suing Development Alternatives and the United States in federal court. In his complaint, Gross says he and his family have “suffered immensely” as a result of his imprisonment. He claims to have lost more than 100 pounds, while suffering from chronic arthritis pain and possibly cancer.


More than 500 rabbis have called upon the Cuban government to release Gross. In a letter to President Raúl Castro, the rabbis cited an assessment by a U.S. radiologist that the American contractor may have a cancerous growth.

-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

U.S. Hangs Citizen Out to Dry in a Cuban Prison (by Julia Filip, Courthouse News Service)

500 Rabbis Join Push for Alan Gross Release (Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

Alan and Judith Gross v. Development Alternatives (U.S. District Court, District of Columbia) (pdf)


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