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A U.S. contractor imprisoned in Cuba ended a hunger strike on Friday after eight days of protesting his treatment by the Cuban and U.S. governments while serving a 15-year term for illegally attempting to establish Internet service on the island.
"My protest fast is suspended as of today, although there will be further protests to come," Alan Gross said in a statement. His 91-year-old mother urged Gross, 64, to resume eating, according to a statement released through representatives of his lawyer and family.
Gross was arrested in 2009 while trying to establish an online network for Jews in Havana as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). It was his fifth trip to Cuba.
In 2011, a Cuban court sentenced him to 15 years in prison for illegally providing Internet equipment and service to Cuban Jewish groups under a U.S. program promoting political change that the Cuban government considers subversive.
Gross launched his hunger strike on April 3 after The Associated Press reported that USAID established a secretive "Cuban Twitter," called ZunZuneo following his arrest. Havana viewed the project as an attempt to subvert the communist government.
Cuba has blamed the United States for Gross's incarceration and repeatedly offered to enter into talks that would also take up the cases of three Cuban agents serving long prison terms in the United States for spying on Cuban exile groups in Florida.
The United States has rejected any trade of the Cuban agents for Gross, and no formal talks have taken place.