Cuba seeks 20 year jail term for US ‘spy’

THE United States said Friday it “deplored” Cuba’s decision to seek 20 years in prison against a US contractor over espionage charges and called for his immediate release.

Alan Gross, 61, was arrested in 2009 for violating Cuba’s “independence and territorial integrity,” Cuba’s government said in a statement.

“The prosecution is asking for 20 years in prison,” said the statement in the Communist Party newspaper Granma. “A trial date will be fixed soon.”

A State Department spokesman said that Gross was in Cuba to support members of the Jewish community and already “has been harshly and unfairly jailed for too long.”

“We deplore the Cuban government’s announcement that Cuban prosecutors intend to seek a 20-year sentence against Mr Gross,” said the spokesman, Charles Luoma-Overstreet.

“He has been held without charges for more than a year, contrary to all international human rights obligations and commitments regarding justice and due process,” he said. “He should be home with his family now.”

Mr Gross’ case has created a rift between Havana and Washington as the two countries try to thaw relations.

US authorities have argued that Mr Gross worked for a non-government organisation contracted by the State Department to supply computer and communications material to civil society groups on the island, and that he should be freed.

The United States and Cuba have not had formal diplomatic ties since 1961, though Washington is represented by a US interest section in Havana.

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