Freed American Alan Gross had long career in foreign aid

Alan Gross, 65, who spent five years in a Cuban prison, has had a long career in foreign aid and international development.

Washington: Alan Gross, 65, who spent five years in a Cuban prison, has had a long career in foreign aid and international development.

He was working in Cuba as a subcontractor for the US Agency for International Development when he was arrested in Havana in December 2009.

Initially accused of espionage, Gross was tried in 2011 and sentenced to 15 years behind bars for committing "acts against the independence and territorial integrity" of Cuba.

His lawyers, as well as the US government, strongly denied he was involved in spying activities on the communist-ruled island.

Born in New York, Gross studied social work in Maryland and Virginia before embarking in a lifelong career in international development.

A specialist in satellite communications, his job took him to around 50 countries in the Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. 

In Pakistan, he helped strengthen community relations at a mining operation in Baluchistan province, his support group Bring Alan Home said.

In the West Bank and Gaza, he was engaged in job creation and trade facilitation. In Azerbaijan and Bulgaria, he put agricultural projects into action.

He visited Cuba four times on tourist visas prior to his arrest, delivering computer and satellite gear to Jewish groups.

On his fourth trip, his baggage reportedly included iPod players, Blackberry smartphones, laptop computers and satellite phones, among other electronic devices -- some legal in Cuba, some not.

On his fifth journey, he was allegedly in possession of an electronic chip that prevents the location of satellite telephone calls to be traced.

On its website, Bring Alan Home said Gross was "a subcontractor on a USAID project to improve wireless access for small communities across Cuba, with a special emphasis on Cuba`s Jewish community."

During his detention, Gross`s family and supporters expressed concern about the state of his health.

"He has lost over 100 pounds (45 kilogram) and has developed degenerative arthritis in his leg. He battles depression," Bring Alan Home said.

"He loses hope each day that he will return to the United States alive."

The father of two daughters, Gross has been a resident of the affluent Washington suburb of Potomac, Maryland.

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. You can find out more by clicking this link