WASHINGTON – The wife of U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross, who was sentenced in Cuba to 15 years in prison for subversion, sent a Passover message to Cuban President Raul Castro asking him to free her husband as a gesture toward all Jews.
During Monday night’s ceremony marking the start of Passover, Judy Gross adapted the traditional reading and reciting from religious texts to include a special prayer for her husband and to direct her comments to the two men who hold the fate of the Gross family “in their hands” – Raul Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama.
“I call on President Obama, in whom my husband believed so much, to make Alan’s release a top priority,” she said.
“And I call on President Castro to make a genuine gesture to the Jewish community around the world this Passover by releasing Alan immediately on humanitarian grounds.”
A chair was left vacant to recall Gross’s absence from the Passover ceremony, which was presided over by Rabbi Stan Levin,
Gross, 61, was arrested Dec. 3, 2009, while distributing satellite communications equipment among Cuba’s Jewish community. Havana says he was illegally aiding dissidents and inciting subversion on the island.
Fifteen months later, Gross, a sub-contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, was formally accused by the Cuban government of “acts against the independence and territorial integrity” of the country.
He was convicted in March and sentenced to 15 years behind bars.
“Over the past year, I have learned that nothing comes easy when it has to do with the decades-old impasse between Washington and Havana,” Judy Gross said in her Passover message. “I have painfully come to realize that my husband is but a pawn caught in the midst of a futile political war that neither side can claim to be winning.” EFE