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A Maryland contractor on Wednesday marked five years of imprisonment in Cuba, and his wife urged authorities to release him, saying he "has paid a terrible price" and was "literally wasting away" in confinement.
Alan Gross, 65, was arrested in Havana in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years for allegedly bringing communications equipment into the communist-run country while working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Cuba's President Raul Castro called him a spy, and Cuban officials said Gross was contracted to work for American intelligence services — a charge denied by Gross and the U.S. government.
Diplomatic overtures and family appeals have failed to secure the release of Gross, whose wife, Judy, said he had difficulty walking, had lost more than 100 pounds during his imprisonment and was now mostly blind in his right eye. Gross' family said he was bringing expanded Internet access to Cuba's small Jewish community when he was detained.
"Enough is enough,” Judy Gross said in a statement. “My husband has paid a terrible price for serving his country and community. Alan is resolved that he will not endure another year imprisoned in Cuba, and I am afraid that we are at the end. After five years of literally wasting away, Alan is done. It is time for President Obama to bring Alan back to the United States now; otherwise it will be too late."
Gross earlier this year said goodbye to his wife and daughter. He has also refused most other visitors though he did meet earlier in November with two U.S. Senators.
The State Department called for the immediate release of Gross, calling his detention “unjustified imprisonment in difficult conditions.”
“It is gravely disappointing, especially in light of its professed goal of providing Cubans with internet access, that the Cuban government has not allowed Mr. Gross to return to his family, where he belongs,” Marie Harf, deputy spokeswoman, said in a statement.