By MATTHEW LEE – Associated Press Writer
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday urged Jewish groups to join the campaign to persuade Cuba to release a U.S. government contractor detained on the communist island for seven months without charge.
Clinton told representatives of the American Jewish community that they should add their voices to calls for Cuba to release Alan P. Gross, a U.S. Agency for International Development contractor who was helping members of Cuba’s small Jewish community use the Internet to stay in contact with each other and with similar groups abroad.
“Alan was providing information and technology that would assist this community to be better connected,” Clinton said at a State Department reception in honor of Hannah Rosenthal, the Obama administration’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. Gross’ wife, Judy, attended the event.
“Our government works every single day through every channel for his release and safe return home,” Clinton said. “But I am really making an appeal to the active Jewish community here in our country to join this cause … because this family deserves to be reunited and each and every one of us should do everything we can to make it clear to the Cuban government that Alan Gross needs to come home.”
Gross, a 60-year-old native of Potomac, Md., was working in Cuba for a firm contracted by USAID when he was arrested as a suspected spy in Havana on Dec. 3. He has been held without charge in the capital’s high-security Villa Marista prison since.
The U.S. says Gross committed no crime and has repeatedly appealed for his release on humanitarian grounds. In May, the head of Cuba’s high court said prosecutors had yet to open a legal case against him. Formal charges can’t be filed in Cuba without a judicial accusation and the opening of a case, so it appears unlikely charges against Gross are imminent.
Judy Gross has said her husband had brought communications equipment intended only for humanitarian purposes and not for political use by Cuba’s small dissident community. Satellite phones and other telecommunications materials are outlawed in Cuba, where the government maintains strict control over Internet access and the media.
Clinton’s appeal to the U.S. Jewish community followed the release on Tuesday of seven jailed Cuban dissidents who were sent to Spain, the first of 52 political prisoners to be freed under an agreement worked out between Cuban authorities and the Catholic church.