Sixty-five-year-old American Alan Gross has been released from a Cuban prison on “humanitarian grounds” and is on a U.S. airplane heading home.
According to CNN
Gross’ “humanitarian” release by Cuba was accompanied by a separate spy swap, the officials said. Cuba also freed a U.S. intelligence source who has been jailed in Cuba for more than 20 years, although authorities did not identify that person for security reasons. The U.S. released three Cuban intelligence agents convicted of espionage in 2001.
Gross, who worked as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), was arrested on espionage charges essentially for bringing satellite phones and computer equipment to members of Cuba’s Jewish community without the permit required under Cuban law.
In prison since 2009, Gross’ heath has been deteriorating as of late. According to an ABC News report earlier this month, he has lost over 100 pounds, only has one tooth left in his mouth, is blind in one eye, and can barely walk because of a bad hip.
Gross has threatened to begin a hunger strike this month if he is not released soon and vows not to spend one more year in captivity—even if it means he dies of hunger.
Andrea Mitchell reported on MSNBC that serious negotiations for Gross’ release had been ongoing for a few weeks, Cuba wanted it to happen sometime during the Jewish holiday of Chanukah.
Alan Gross’ cause has been a major issue in the American Jewish community. In August:
Three hundred rabbis from across the United States called on President Obama today to negotiate the immediate release of Alan Gross, an American citizen imprisoned in Cuba as a direct result of work he was doing on behalf of the U.S. government.
“Alan went to Cuba on behalf of our government. His immediate release from prison in Cuba and return to the U.S. must be a priority for our nation. Indeed, we believe this is a moral imperative,” the rabbis said in a letter to Obama. “Our communities are gravely concerned that Alan continues to languish in a Cuban prison nearly five years after his arrest. We ask, with all respect, that you take whatever steps are necessary to ensure a prompt end to Alan’s, and his family’s, continuing nightmare.”
President Obama will make a formal announcement about the release at noon Wednesday. Cuban leader Raul Castro will make an announcement to his country about noon also.