WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington has launched a nationwide on-line petition drive appealing to Cuba’s President Raul Castro to free Maryland resident Alan Gross on humanitarian grounds.
In Dec. 2009, the 61-year old Gross was in Cuba helping the country’s Jewish community improve its Internet and Intranet access, when he was taken into custody by Cuban authorities. He has been incarcerated ever since. The Potomac, Md. resident languished in prison for more than a year before he was charged and subsequently convicted by a Cuban court of “actions against the integrity of the State” – charges he fervently denies. He is sentenced to 15 years in prison.
With attempts to appeal his sentence rejected by the Cuban Supreme Court, Gross’ legal remedies are exhausted. His only avenue left is commutation of his sentence by Raul Castro.
In addition to JCRC’s petition, President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, members of Congress, community leaders, and newspaper editorials have all called for Gross’ immediate release. Since his incarceration, his eldest daughter has been diagnosed with breast cancer and undergone a double mastectomy, his 89-year-old mother is suffering from inoperable cancer, and his wife Judy has undergone surgery for an undisclosed medical issue. Gross has lost approximately 100 pounds since his arrest and is suffering from several ailments.
“I am incredibly grateful for the support our family is receiving from the Jewish community,” said Judy Gross. “With this petition I hope we can appeal to President Castro, Foreign Minister Rodriguez, and Ambassador Bolanos, not only as leaders of a sovereign nation, but as fathers and family men who can themselves understand what it would be like to have their family torn apart. We all hope and pray that this year Alan will be back in time to be with our family for the High Holy days.”
To sign the JCRC petition visit www.jcouncil.org/gross.