Cuban court studying appeal from U.S. contractor

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 17, 2011 3:38 PM
Cuban court studying appeal from U.S. contractor

By Nelson Acosta

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba's highest court has received an appeal by U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross seeking to overturn a 15-year jail sentence handed down last month for crimes against the Cuban state, the head of the court said on Saturday.

Ruben Remigio Ferro, president of the Supreme Tribunal, told reporters the appeal had been filed in recent days by lawyers for Gross, who was accused of helping set up unauthorized Internet access for Cuban dissidents.

The case brought to a halt a brief warming in long-hostile U.S.-Cuba relations and threatens to keep them on hold because the United States has said there will be no progress while Gross, 61, is held.

"There is an appeal presented. It is at the disposition of the judges who are attending the case," Remigio Ferro told reporters while watching a military parade in Havana on Saturday. The parade preceded a Communist Party congress later in day to consider reforms to the Cuba's troubled economy.

He would not speculate on when the court would rule on the appeal, saying it still had to be analyzed.

Remigio Ferro gave no further details, but there were earlier reports Gross' lawyers argued during his March trial he should only have been accused of visa violations because he entered Cuba on a tourist visa instead of work visa.

He was convicted of the more serious crime of "acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the state."

Gross was in Cuba working for a secretive U.S.-funded program aimed at promoting political change on the communist-led island. He has been jailed since his arrest in Havana in December 2009.

Cuban leaders view the program as part of ongoing U.S. efforts to topple the government.

The United States has said Gross was only helping Jewish groups set up Internet and had committed no crime.

His wife, Judy Gross, has pleaded with the Cuban government to release her husband because their daughter and his elderly mother have cancer.

(Editing by Jeff Franks and Deborah Charles)

(This story was corrected in paragraph 11 to say Gross' mother has cancer, not his father)