Cuba Won’t Free Alan Gross Unilaterally


Havana Barbershop

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban government yesterday dismissed the possibility of it making any “unilateral” humanitarian gesture towards the United States over the case of imprisoned US communications contractor Alan Gross, as Washington requested earlier in the week, reported DPA news.

The US has no right to demand that Cuba make a unilateral concession on the Gross case “since Washington is the party responsible for his situation,” said the director of the North American Affairs Department of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Josefina Vidal. “The appropriate solution must be sought in conjunction with the US government,” she added.

Cuba has reiterated on several occasions that it is “ready” to negotiate Gross’s release for a possible exchange for the “Cuban Five” (five Cuban agents who have been serving long prison terms in the United States since 1998 on espionage charges).

Washington, however, refuses to link the two cases.

Gross, 63, marked his third year of imprisonment on December 3. Over the last several days, his relatives and several US politicians stepped up their campaign by calling on the Raul Castro government to release him on humanitarian grounds or to at least let him temporarily return to his country.

“We continue asking the Cuban government to accept the request for Alan Gross to travel to the United States to visit his mother, Evelyn Gross, 90, who is seriously ill. This is a humanitarian issue,” said US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner in a statement this week.

Gross was arrested in December 2009 while trying to smuggle sophisticated and banned telecommunications equipment onto the island. The Maryland resident was subsequently sentenced to 15 years in prison for “acts against the independence or territorial integrity of the state.”

The Cuban prosecutor accused him of having carried out “undercover” operations with the support of the US authorities to destabilize the island’s government. Gross — who was sent to Cuba under a $500,000 contract to work for USAID — denies those allegations and claims that the equipment was designed to simply provide Internet access to Cuban Jewish community.

The family and lawyers of Gross in the United States contend that his health has deteriorated significantly while in prison. Cuban doctors conducted tests on Gross recently and found that he does not suffer from cancer, as had been speculated by the family and press earlier.

Havana also refused on Wednesday to allow US doctors to see Gross, as demanded by his family, who questioned the recent medical evaluations that ruled out a cancerous tumor.

“A team of world class Cuban doctors has provided Mr. Gross systematic attention from day one,” said Vidal.

The Gross family’s lawyer, Jared Genser, issued a statement dismissing as “absurd” the claims by Cuba about the US lying about the health of the operative.

“The easiest way to solve this is to allow an independent doctor to carry out a comprehensive review of Gross,” Genser said.

The lawyer also criticized Cuba’s rejection of the statement by the UN about Gross’s situation as constituting “arbitrary detention.”

The Cuban Foreign Ministry today released on its website the “executive summary” of Havana’s response to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. It’s clear from the island’s reaction to the UN report (whose findings have not yet been officially published) that the international body has concluded that the US operative is under “arbitrary detention” by international standards.

“The arrest in Cuba of Mr. Alan Phillip Gross has not violated any article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, or the Body of Principles for the Protection of Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, contrary to the claims of the source of the complaint against the Cuban government,” replied the Foreign Ministry of the island. “Therefore these cannot be described in any way as arbitrary,” concludes the official Cuban position.

Attorney Genser, who in August sent the request to the UN agency to analyze the case of Gross, challenged Cuba to “make public” the resolution of the Working Group “so that the international community can see what the United Nations said.”

“Faced with the assertions by Vidal concerning the irrelevance of that review, it’s obvious that the Cuban government wanted to win this case to vindicate its claim that the arrest of Alan Gross was justified,” said Genser, for whom the UN resolution implies that the Cuban government “should immediately release” his client and “let him return to the United States.”

3 thoughts on “Cuba Won’t Free Alan Gross Unilaterally

  • Alan Gross was not convicted of espionage. The Cuban government has clearly stated that he is not being imprisoned because of spying. On the other hand, the Cuban 14, now down to the Cuban 5, were arrested for a variety of charges, including capital offenses. While the majority of the 14 Cuban arrested were clearly engaged in some degree of espionage (fake passports and fake identities), the US prosecutor chose to bring charges more relevant to the actions taken by the Cuban 5 outside of their ‘spying’ activities. As I have commented several times before on HT, Mr. Gross was arrested on his fifth trip to Cuba. All five trips involved the same activities. Cuban authorities claim to have been aware of his activities from his first trip. If his actions truly were a threat to national soverignty, why let him leave and come back four times? Even for the US to consider a trade of the five Cuban spies for the contractor Alan Gross would set a dangerous precedent and put all other NGO workers around the world in countries led by despots like the Castros in serious danger. Imagine the risk to other Americans around the world if these despots knew that an arrest and a closed-to-the-public trial could lead to sit-down discussions with the US. This kind of blackmail has long been a tactic of desperate regimes seeking legitimacy. On the other hand, should Cuba reverse themselves, something they seem quite content on doing these days (Can you say self-employed Cuban workforce without smiling), They would be well-served to unilaterally release Mr. Goss and score an international public relations touchdown! The world would look to the US to respond in kind with a similiar gesture. Moreover, the risk that a small poor country takes to unjustly incarcerate an American citizen is hardly worth the possible negtive consequences. Cuba’s original plan to take Gross hostage in the hope of a trade for the five spies will not work. They should send him home.

  • Seven years ago, the same UN Working Group judged The Five to be are being held in “arbitrary detention. Obviously the US doesn’t feel bound by its findings either. Why should Cuba?

    Amnesty International has also condemned the imprisonment of The Five. Interestingly, they have have neither called for Gross’s release, nor adopted him as so-called prisoner of conscience. As a rule, they do not adopt anyone as a POC if they have been convicted of espionage.

  • “It is not within the mandate of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions to evaluate or judge the national legislation of a sovereign State or make any statement on the independence and impartiality of the courts, except for those aspects related to non-compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the appropriate international instruments accepted by the affected States, which Cuba has strictly complied with.

    The Working Group made a hasty analysis of this item on November 23, outside the scheduled agenda, without the translation of the Cuban response and based on an alleged “executive summary” drafted by some person. The deliberation by the experts took two hours.

    We know of the pressures exerted by the United States on the Group to force out an opinion that would exactly coincide with the actions that have been planned to mark the anniversary of Mr. Gross’ detention.”

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