Two-year incarceration is a major setback in bilateral relations and human rights violation
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and a bipartisan group of 18 senators, including Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Carl Levin (D-MI), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Dean Heller (R-NV), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), have written to the Cuban Government urging them in the strongest possible manner to immediately and unconditionally release Marylander Alan Gross who has been held in prison since December 3, 2009.
“After two years in a Cuban prison, Mr. Gross and his family have paid an enormous personal price. Mr. Gross has lost 100 pounds and suffers from numerous medical conditions. In addition, … Mr. Gross’s daughter and mother are both fighting cancer, and his wife is struggling to make ends meet. We strongly urge the Cuban Government to immediately release Mr. Gross on humanitarian grounds and allow him to be reunited with his family,” the Senators wrote to Jorge Bolaños, Chief of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington.
Calling Alan Gross’ continued incarceration a “major setback in bilateral relations,” the senators concluded: “We urge your government in the strongest possible terms to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Gross, so that we can resume a more positive path to the benefit of American and Cuban people alike.”
Gross was in Cuba to help the country’s small Jewish community establish an Intranet and improve its access to the internet, access which would allow the community to go online without fear of censorship or monitoring. After being held for 14 months without charge and then a cursory two-day trial, he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison. His appeal to the Cuban Supreme Court was denied in August of this year.
The full text of the letter follows:
December 1, 2011
Mr. Jorge Bolaños
Chief of Mission
Cuban Interests Section
Embassy of Switzerland
2639 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009
Dear Mr. Bolaños,
It is with deep concern that we write to you regarding the ongoing imprisonment of Alan Gross by your government. On the eve of the second anniversary of his arrest and detention in Cuba, and with the legal process having formally concluded, his fate and that of his family, now lie in the hands of your president, Raúl Castro. The Cuban Government has indicated that it would be open to resolving Mr. Gross’s case through diplomatic channels. We urge you to honor that commitment and release Mr. Gross on humanitarian grounds immediately.
As Mr. Gross explained to both the trial court and Cuba’s Supreme Court, his intention was never to harm the Cuban Government. In fact, Mr. Gross spoke of his affection for the Cuban people and respect for the island’s sovereignty. After two years in a Cuban prison, Mr. Gross and his family have paid an enormous personal price. Mr. Gross has lost 100 pounds and suffers from numerous medical conditions. In addition, the Gross family situation is one that warrants compassion. As you know, Mr. Gross’s daughter and mother are both fighting cancer, and his wife is struggling to make ends meet. We strongly urge the Cuban Government to immediately release Mr. Gross on humanitarian grounds and allow him to be reunited with his family.
Mr. Gross’s continued incarceration is viewed by Members of Congress, regardless of their political views on Cuba, as a major setback in bilateral relations. It is unlikely that any further positive steps can or will be taken as long as Mr. Gross remains in a Cuban jail. We urge your government in the strongest possible terms to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Gross, so that we can resume a more positive path to the benefit of American and Cuban people alike.
U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin
U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski
U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin
U.S. Senator Carl Levin
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson
U.S. Senator Dean Heller
U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal
U.S. Senator Joseph I. Lieberman
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden
U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu
U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.
U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
U.S. Senator Chris Coons
U.S. Senator Roy Blunt
U.S. Senator Herb Kohl
U.S. Senator Jack Reed
U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg