White House urges Cuba to release US contractor

AP News
Posted: Mar 12, 2011 6:51 PM
White House urges Cuba to release US contractor

An outraged White House said Saturday it wants the Cuban government to immediately release an American international development worker sentenced to 15 years in prison for crimes against the state.

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said the prison term "adds another injustice" to Alan Gross's ordeal.

Vietor said Gross, a Maryland native arrested in December 2009 while on a U.S.-backed democracy-building project, has already spent too many days in detention and "should not spend one more."

Gross was found guilty by a Cuban court on Saturday. The court said the program Gross worked on showed that the U.S. still seeks to overthrow the Cuban government.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley echoed that sentiment.

"We deplore this ruling. Alan Gross is a dedicated international development worker who has devoted his life to helping people in more than 50 countries," Crowley said in a statement. "He was in Cuba to help the Cuban people connect with the rest of the world."

The Obama administration and Gross' family say he was working to improve Internet access for Cuba's Jewish community. Havana accused Gross of working on a "subversive" program.

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