Alan Gross, the American subcontractor jailed in Cuba, has vowed that he will return to the United States within a year "dead or alive" and is pleading for the White House to intervene, his lawyer said Wednesday.
In an interview from Havana, attorney Scott Gilbert told NBC News' Andrea Mitchell that after more than four years in 23-hour lockup, his client can't face the thought of another decade behind bars.
"He will return to the United States before his 66th birthday, dead or alive," Gilbert said on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" after meeting with Gross and Cuban offcials.
Gross, 65, lost 11 pounds during a nine-day hunger strike earlier this year. It was unclear if his pledge meant he might undertake another one.
"I think Alan can be volatile, as would be anyone confined in this situation. And I take Alan's statement not as a threat but as expression of extraordinary frustration and determination and, and as he said to me yesterday, continued hope."
Gross, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), was arrested in 2009 while trying to establish an online network for Jews in Havana.
He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for subversive activities. Gilbert said that Cuban officials reiterated their offer to begin talks about Gross' possible release with no pre-conditions, but the U.S. has balked.
"We have asked the president to engage," Gilbert said. "We believe the administration should do whatever it takes to free Alan, who was in Cuba in the first place on U.S. government business."
Gross spends all but one hour a day in a cell with two other men, his lawyer said. He is allowed two short phone calls a week and his meals are "limited and mediocre," he said.
"He does not intend to endure another year of this solitary confinement," Gilbert said.
— Tracy Connor