National Press Club

Contractor's Cuba imprisonment has harmed health, family, his wife says

December 2, 2012 | By Sean Lyngaas |

“I cannot and will not allow my husband to die in a Cuban prison,” Judy Gross, wife of jailed American contractor Alan Gross, told a National Press Club Newsmaker on November 30.

Alan Gross, 63, was arrested without public explanation in 2009 on one of the several trips he made to Cuba working as a U.S. government contractor to bring the Internet to disparate Jewish communities on the island.

Judy Gross spoke of the toll her husband’s incarceration has taken on their family as the third anniversary of his arrest approaches. “December 3, 2009 was the day my family fell apart,” she said.

In the 3 years since his arrest, Alan Gross has developed degenerative arthritis and a potentially cancerous growth on his shoulder while his family in the United States has struggled with their own health issues and the absence of a husband and father. When his daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, Alan Gross pleaded with the Cuban high court to be allowed to see her. His request, like many other appeals for clemency on humanitarian grounds, was denied by Havana.

Alan Gross was not formally charged until 14 months after his arrest. He was then accused of trying to subvert the sovereignty of Cuba under a sweeping national security statute that the Castro brothers have used to lock up Cuban dissidents for years.

Jared Genser, the lawyer for the Gross family, joined Judy Gross at the Newsmaker and put Alan’s inhumane treatment in the context of international law and U.S.-Cuba relations. He said that Alan Gross’s communications work in Cuba “is something that is protected clearly and unequivocally under international law, and particularly by a treaty that the government of Cuba itself signed, the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights.”

Both Judy Gross and Genser appealed directly to the American government to give greater priority to securing Alan Gross’s release. “President Obama, I urge you to do whatever it takes to solve this case,” Judy Gross said. Genser added, “President Obama needs to send a high-level envoy to Cuba who has the authority to…take whatever decisions are necessary to bring Alan home.”

Genser also pointed out that the Obama administration has managed to secure the release of Americans detained abroad in at least 3 other cases. In none of these cases were the detainees government contractors like Alan Gross. Judy Gross summed up her husband’s agony: “Alan was sent by the U.S. government. It is therefore the duty of the U.S. government to get this resolved.” Right, now her husband “feels like a soldier left in the field to die.”

*To find out more about Alan Gross’s case, visit