Torture in Cuba
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America's forgotten languishes in Cuban jail

PAUL KORING

WASHINGTON — The Globe and Mail

Published Thursday, Nov. 22 2012, 10:07 PM EST

Suffering from a mysterious ailment and having lost nearly 50 kilograms

languishing in Cuban prisons for nearly three years, Alan Gross is

perhaps America's most forgotten prisoner.

The development worker, with experience on U.S.-funded projects in Iraq

and Afghanistan setting up communications networks, was convicted in

March, 2011, of attempting to subvert the revolution on the Communist

island.

His supporters claim he was innocently trying to set up access

for Cuba's tiny Jewish minority under a project funded by the U.S. aid

agency, USAID, and that the Obama administration has not come to his

assistance for fear of alienating Cuban-American voters during the election.

With the 2012 contest over, however, a concerted effort is under way to

goad the Obama administration into action.

The Gross family has filed a lawsuit for up to $30-million in damages

from the U.S. government, and with the aid of a high-profile

human-rights lawyer, who counts Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi as one

of his clients, they have launched a set of actions to draw attention to

the case.

Mr. Gross's wife, Judy, believes that Barack Obama wanted nothing to do

with springing her husband from a hostile regime – at least until the

presidential elections were over – for fear of riling the powerful

Cuban-American constituency in Florida, a vital group of voters in a

swing state who would not take kindly to his administration negotiating

with the Communist regime. "He was willing to have somebody rot in jail

because of South Florida and the election," Mrs. Gross said in an interview.

The U.S. State Department has denied that Mr. Gross is a spy and said

that he is being held without justification.

Mr. Gross was in his Havana hotel room on Dec. 3, 2009, on the

last day of what was supposed to be his fifth and final visit to Cuba.

After 14 months in prison, he was finally charged with "a subversive

project aimed at bringing down the revolution." After a two-day trial,

he was convicted and given a 15-year prison sentence.

Mr. Gross is held in a Havana military . Cuban doctors claim a

large mass in his shoulder isn't serious but after a long-distance

review, Alan Cohen, a Maryland radiologist, warned that the mass

represents a "potentially lethal outcome."

Jared Genser, who is president of the non-profit group Freedom Now and

whose clients have included former Czech Republic president Vaclav Havel

and Nobel Peace Prize laureates Desmond Tutu and and Elie Wiesel, has

formally asked Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and

other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment, to open a

file on Cuba's treatment of Mr. Gross.

Mr. Gross had been "denied adequate medical diagnosis and treatment for

the last six months," Mr. Genser wrote in a letter to Mr. Mendez, adding

that, if it continues, the Cuban government's conduct "will constitute

torture."

The Gross family has also filed a lawsuit against Development

Alternatives Inc., the aid company for whom Mr. Gross was working,

accusing both the company and the U.S. government of failing to provide

Mr. Gross with the " and training that was necessary to

minimize the risk of harm to him."

A letter from more than 500 rabbis, including 19 in Canada and others

from more than a dozen countries, to Cuba's President urged

Mr. Gross be released "on humanitarian grounds," not only because of his

illness but because his "90-year-old mother also has terminal lung

cancer and desperately wants to see her son before she dies."

Among them is Ron Aigen, president of the Montreal Board of Rabbis, who

said it was inexcusable and inexplicable that Mr. Gross case had failed

– so far – to arouse support among Jews and others concerned about

unwarranted imprisonment.

Cuba contends the multimillion-dollar USAID effort was a thinly

disguised attempt to undermine the Castro government by giving

dissidents and opposition groups independent access to the Internet and

sophisticated technology to cover their tracks.

Mrs. Gross said her husband's "mood is one of incredible anger." The

U.S. government "sent me here and then deserted me in Cuba," he told her

when she visited Havana last month.

Cuba has repeatedly hinted that Mr. Gross could be freed in a swap for

the so-called Cuban Five, a group of Cuban spies arrested in 1998.

Havana admits they were intelligence agents but contends they were

keeping an eye on the radical and violent extremists in the Cuban diaspora.

"[It's] an essential element in this agenda," Cuba's Foreign Minister

Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla Lopez said earlier this month that one of

Havana's conditions for better relations with the United States was

freeing the Cuba Five.

Mr. Genser says Havana needs to move first: "If the Cubans want good

relations with Obama in the second term … the fastest and best way to do

that is to release Alan Gross."

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/americas-forgotten-prisoner-languishes-in-cuban-jail/article5581262/

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