Cuba: US man held for 2 years was `undercover`

Cuban officials say an American man held in prison in the communist country for two years conducted "undercover activities".

Last Updated: Dec 03, 2011, 16:05 PM IST

Washington: Cuban officials say an American
man held in prison in the communist country for two years
conducted "undercover activities" and was part of a program
aimed at "disrupting the constitutional order in Cuba."

Today marks two years since Alan Gross was arrested in
Cuba. The 62-year-old man has said he was just trying to help
members of the island`s small Jewish community with Internet
access. Earlier this year, however, a Cuban court convicted
Gross of crimes against the state and sentenced him to 15
years in prison.

US lawmakers and Gross` wife this week called for his
release ahead of today`s anniversary. Late yesterday, the
Cuban Interests Section in Washington, which Cuba maintains
instead of an embassy, released a brief statement in response.

The statement refutes the suggestion that Gross is in
prison because he was helping the Jewish community with
Internet access. All Cuban synagogues had Internet access
before Gross arrived, the statement said.

The statement said Gross was tried because he violated
Cuban laws "while implementing a covert program financed by
the US government and aimed at disrupting the constitutional
order in Cuba."

At the time he was arrested, Gross was working as a
subcontractor for the US Agency for International Development,
a government agency that provides humanitarian assistance but
also funds democracy-building programs. The Cuban statement
said Gross never told people he contacted in the Communist
nation that he was working for a US government program.

The "undercover activities" that Gross conducted in Cuba
"constitute crimes in many countries of the world, including
in the United States," the statement said without specifying
what Gross did.

The statement concludes by saying that the Cuban
government has told its US counterparts that Cuba is willing
to find a "humanitarian solution" to the Gross case on a
"reciprocal basis."

US officials have reportedly offered to let Rene
Gonzalez, a convicted Cuban spy who served 13 years in a US
prison and is now out on probation, return to the island in
exchange for Gross, but Cuban officials reportedly rejected
the offer.

PTI