Cuban court upholds conviction of American for spying, White House calls for his release

ABC News' Kirit Radia ( @KiritRadia_ABC ) reports:

Cuba’s Supreme Court today upheld the conviction of American Alan Gross on charges of spying. In March a lower court sentenced Gross to 15 years in prison for participating in “a subversive project of the U.S. government that aimed to destroy the revolution through the use of communications systems out of the control of authorities.”.

The Obama administration has denied Gross was a spy and today called for his immediate release on humanitarian grounds.

“We call on the government of Cuba to release Alan Gross immediately and unconditionally, to allow him to return to his family and bring to an end the long ordeal that began well over a year ago,” White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement.

The Cuban Supreme Court heard Gross’ appeal on July 22. According to a statement issued by his lawyer that day Gross repeated that “he never had any intention of hurting the Cuban government or its people.”

Gross worked as a contractor for the United States Agency for International Development and his lawyers says he was only there to distribute equipment to help the island’s tiny Jewish population communicate with the outside world. The technology was meant to improve internet connectivity. Cuban authorities, however, say he lacked the necessary paperwork to work in Cuba and to possess that equipment. He was detained in the airport as he prepared to leave the country in December 2009.

“While we are not surprised, we are extremely disappointed with today’s ruling, which marks the end of Alan’s legal process in Cuba. The family is heartbroken by today’s decision, but remains hopeful that there continues to be room for a diplomatic resolution of this matter,” his lawyer, Peter Kahn, said in reaction to today’s ruling.

Gross’ family has repeatedly appealed for her husband’s release, noting that his wife, daughter, and mother-in-law have all fallen ill since his detention. Earlier this year his daughter underwent surgery for cancer treatment. Mr. Gross also suffers from diabetes and is said to have lost nearly 90 pounds while in prison.

The Alan Gross case has threatened to chill what were slowly warming relations between Cuba and the United States. The Obama administration had re-started talks with Cuban authorities about migration and other issues. Earlier this year President Obama relaxed restrictions on Americans wishing to travel or send money to the island.

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