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Monday, March 8, 2010

US govt contractor Alan Gross still in Cuban jail for assisting Jewish community

Of current interest: (AFP) – Feb 19, 2010

US demands immediate release of American held in Cuba

HAVANA — The United States demanded Friday the "immediate release" of an American contractor who has been detained in Cuba since December, the US State Department said.

A visiting high-level US delegation engaged in immigration talks with Havana "raised the case of the US citizen detained in Cuba on December 4 and called for his immediate release," said a statement from the US Interests Section, Washington's mission in the communist-ruled country.

The US government has identified the man, 60-year-old Alan Gross, as a government contractor with Development Alternatives Inc (DAI) of Bethesda, Maryland, just outside Washington, who was seeking to help Jewish groups communicate with people outside the country by distributing mobile phones and computers.

Havana has slammed him as a US spy seeking to harm the communist regime, with President Raul Castro saying Gross used "sophisticated" communications equipment to help opposition groups in their role as "mercenaries" for the United States.

Friday's statement was signed by State Department spokesman Philip Crowley, although he was not in Havana.

The US delegation was led by Craig Kelly, the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, President Barack Obama's highest-ranking envoy to Cuba for fresh talks on migration issues with the island nation.

See also:  Hapless in Havana   A contractor for USAID is still in jail in Cuba. Why was he there in the first place -- and what can Washington do to bring him back?