U.S. man jailed in Cuba meets with Jewish reps

Alan Gross, center, is visited by David Prinstein, president of the Patronato synagogue in Havana, and Adela Dworin, president of the Cuban Jewish Community, Friday, Sept. 28, 2012. CBS News

HAVANA Imprisoned U.S. contractor Alan Gross told visitors Friday morning that he is feeling well, although his weight is down to 146 pounds, and that he fasted on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.

Adela Dworin, head of Cuba's Jewish Community, and David Prinstein, president of the Patronato Synagogue, spent nearly two hours with Gross in an air-conditioned visitors' room at Havana's military hospital. Gross is serving a 15-year sentence for attempting to create a network of Internet users - outside of the control of the government - whose aim was regime change.

Dworin, who last saw the 63-year-old Maryland native exactly four months ago, said that his mood was optimistic, unlike back in May when, she said, he displayed "anger and frustration."

During the nearly two-hour meeting, Dworin said Gross acted as host offering them coffee or tea that was set out on a small table on one side of the room.

She described their conversation as wide-ranging, covering his health, the U.S. presidential election, and Cuban baseball, describing himself as a fan of the Havana team, the Industriales.

Gross, who has already been jailed for two-and-a-half years, said he hoped the U.S. would end its embargo of the island and establish normal relations, reports Dworin, who added, "He said he is enchanted with Cuba and once freed he could return to Cuba along with his wife."

Dworin and Prinstein have been allowed to regularly visit Gross on Jewish holidays.

Gross reportedly told his two visitors that he lifts weights and walks within the hospital grounds daily. He indicated a lump under his shirt on the right side of his back and said a "scan" had been taken and the results sent to his wife. Dworin understood from what he said that the growth was not malignant.

She said that Gross told them he had recently been visited by his wife, Judy. He also said that his daughter, who had breast cancer, is now doing well.

According to Dworin, Gross is extremely concerned about his mother, who has lung cancer. He told his visitors that he speaks with her by phone but fears he might not get to see her alive. Gross said he has asked Cuban authorities for permission to visit her, promising to return to Cuba to finish serving out his sentence. He has not received a response to his request.

After a visit with her husband at the beginning of this month, Gross' wife Judy expressed concern for what she described as his deteriorating health. In subsequent days a top Cuban Foreign Ministry official said Havana was ready to sit down with the U.S. to discuss a solution to his case, but that Washington has not responded to their offer.

The Gross family lawyer fired back quickly with a statement sent to the media saying U.S. officials have told him that the Cubans have not put any offer for Gross' release on the table.

Cuba has indicated it would like swap Gross for five Cuban intelligence agents sentenced to long prison terms in the U.S., but Washington has rejected such a trade.

  • Portia Siegelbaum

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