WASHINGTON - A United Nations group is calling on the Cuban government to release a U.S. man who has been held in the country for more than three years, saying his imprisonment is unfair.
The report by the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was released Tuesday by a lawyer for Alan Gross. The working group — whose members include lawyers and professors from Senegal, Pakistan, Ukraine, Chile and Norway — has no enforcement powers, but the ruling could put pressure on the Cuban government to release Gross.
The report is dated November 23 and had previously been released to the Cuban government. Cuba criticized the report's conclusion in December, saying the U.S. government had put pressure on the U.N. group and arguing the 63-year-old Gross had been fairly tried. Cuban officials did not release the report.
Gross was arrested in December 2009 while working on a project to set up wireless Internet connections for Cuba's Jewish community. He was working as a subcontractor for USAID, the U.S. government agency in charge of foreign economic development. U.S. officials have portrayed the work as purely humanitarian.
Gross was sentenced to 15 years in prison, and the case has become a major sticking point in talks between the United States and Cuba.
The U.N. report repeated criticisms of Cuba's judicial system, saying it is not impartial, and it criticized the offence Gross was charged with, committing crimes against the state, as imprecise and vague. The report also says Gross should have been released on bail while awaiting trial instead of being held in a Cuban prison for more than a year.
Gross was violating Cuban law by doing work for USAID in the country, since such activities must be authorized. Reports that Gross wrote on several trips to Cuba show he knew the work was risky.
Gross' wife on Tuesday followed up on the U.N. report and sent a letter to Cuban President Raul Castro.
"Given this ruling, I would like to know why your Government is ignoring the declaration of the United Nations that his imprisonment to be wrongful and its request for Alan's immediate release?" she wrote.
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