Cuba sets appeal hearing for jailed American

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 07, 2011 2:23 PM
Cuba sets appeal hearing for jailed American

By Rosa Tania Valdes

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba's highest court will hold an appeal hearing on July 22 in the case of a jailed U.S. aid contractor found guilty of committing crimes against the Cuban state, official media reported on Thursday.

Alan Gross, 62, was arrested in December 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in prison earlier this year for bringing Internet communications equipment to Cuba under a secretive U.S. program promoting change on the communist island.

Gross appealed the March conviction to the Supreme Court on the grounds that he did not realize his actions were part of a broader U.S. effort to set up an Internet platform circumventing local government controls.

"It was announced today that the section of the Popular Supreme Court governing crimes against state security will hear the appeal of North American citizen Alan Philip Gross on July 22," the government website Cuba debate reported.

The report said Gross' lawyers and the U.S. government had been notified of the hearing date.

The case has brought U.S.-Cuba relations to a standstill after a brief period of improvement under U.S. President Barack Obama, who eased U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba and allowed a free flow of remittances to the island.

Gross and the U.S. government, which says he was only helping Jewish groups communicate with each other and abroad and broke no law, are hoping the court will rule in his favor on humanitarian grounds and let him go home.

Gross's wife, Judy Gross, has appealed to the Cuban government to release him because both their daughter and his mother have cancer.

(Editing by Kevin Gray and Cynthia Osterman)