Cuba's highest court Friday heard the final leg of the appeal by Alan P. Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor whose 15-year prison sentence has stalled Obama administration efforts to improve ties with Havana.
A Cuban government announcement said the Supreme Peoples’ Court, meeting in a Courtroom for Crimes against the Security of the State, would issue its ruling “in the next few days.”
The 62-year-old Gross, from Potomac, Md., was convicted of providing Cuba’s tiny Jewish community with an illegal satellite telephone so it could bypass the communist government’s controls on access to the Internet.
He was working for a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program that Washington says is assisting civil society on the island, and Cuban officials say is trying to subvert their government.
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The court can uphold Gross’s conviction and sentence; overturn it and set him free; or uphold it and reduce the sentence. Raúl Castro, president of the Council of State, can pardon Gross after the court rules.
U.S. officials have been optimistic that Gross would be freed this year since January, when Havana authorities told a visiting U.S. State Department official that an early release was possible for humanitarian reasons.
His daughter is battling breast cancer and his mother has been reported in ill health. His wife Judy did not attend Friday’s court session and was reported to be recovering from unspecified surgery.
Obama administration officials have repeatedly demanded that Gross be freed and argued hat no significant improvement in US-Cuba relations is possible until he returns home.
Attending Friday’s court session were Gross, his Cuban and U.S. lawyers — Nuris Piñero and Peter Kahn — and three U.S. representatives from the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana. The hearing was closed to journalists and the public.
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