Saturday, March 05, 2011

Cuban trial of Jewish U.S. contractor over, no verdict announced 

The trial of U.S. government contractor Alan Gross, accused of trying to destabilize the Cuban government, ended Saturday, but no verdict was immediately given.

The court was told the verdict would be relayed to Gross' Cuban defense lawyer, but no timeframe was given, said Gloria Berbena, spokeswoman for the American diplomatic mission in Havana.

Gross was arrested 14 months ago. Cuba accuses him of distributing illegal satellite equipment to connect dissidents to the internet as part of efforts to undermine the government. The prosecution was asking for a 20-year sentence.

The United States says Gross was helping the small Jewish community connect to the internet and that he didn't break any laws.

Gross, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, was tried behind closed doors for two days in a case that derailed tentative efforts by both countries to overcome decades of hostility.

Gross' wife Judy attended the trial with her attorney. Three U.S. officials also attended as observers. She

has appealed to Cuba to release him on humanitarian grounds: His mother has recently been diagnosed with lung cancer and their daughter is recovering from a double mastectomy.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters Friday that Gross had been "unjustly jailed for far too long." He needs to be able to leave Cuba and return home, she said. This is a matter "of great personal pain" to his family and concern to the U.S. government.

Foreign diplomats have speculated that Cuba will find Gross guilty, but could release him fairly quickly on humanitarian grounds.


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