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U.S. Contractor Imprisoned in Cuba Goes on Hunger Strike

HAVANA — The U.S. contractor sentenced to a 15-year prison term in Cuba for attempting to establish an illegal Internet service has gone on a hunger strike to protest his treatment by the Cuban and U.S. governments, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

The lawyer also criticized the United States for putting Alan Gross’s life in further jeopardy by launching a secretive "Cuban Twitter" after his arrest in 2009.

Gross, 64, was a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) when he was arrested on his fifth trip to Cuba in an attempt to establish an online network for Jews in Havana.

In 2011, a Cuban court sentenced him to 15 years in prison, adding greater tension to already fraught U.S.-Cuban relations.

Those relations suffered another setback last week with the revelation that USAID had established a social network in Cuba that Havana saw as an attempt to subvert the communist government.

“I began a fast on April 3 in protest of the treatment to which I am subjected by the governments of Cuba and the United States,” Gross said in the statement. “I am fasting to object to mistruths, deceptions, and inaction by both governments, not only regarding their shared responsibility for my arbitrary detention, but also because of the lack of any reasonable or valid effort to resolve this shameful ordeal.”

Gross also repeated his plea for U.S. President Barack Obama to become personally involved in efforts to get him released.

Gross had already lost 110 pounds in prison before starting his hunger strike, according to a statement released by his lawyer, Scott Gilbert. He is confined to a small, constantly lit cell with two other prisoners for 23 hours a day, the statement said.

— Reuters