WASHINGTON (AP) -- Forty-four senators have written to Cuba's president to call for the release of a Maryland man imprisoned in Cuba for almost three years.
The one-page letter released Tuesday is signed by 34 Democrats, nine Republicans and independent Joseph Lieberman. It says that the detention of Alan Gross is a major obstacle to improving relations between Cuba and the United States.
Among the letter's signatories are both of Maryland's senators, Democrats Benjamin Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, as well as two former presidential candidates, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
"As we approach the three year anniversary of Alan's imprisonment, we call on you to take action and grant him the belated release his situation warrants," the letter says.
It urges Cuban President Raul Castro to release Gross on humanitarian grounds.
Gross was working as a U.S. government contractor when he was arrested on Dec. 3, 2009. The 63-year-old was sentenced to a 15-year prison term for crimes against the state after he brought restricted communications equipment to the communist island nation while on a democracy-building program.
"Members of the Senate have traveled to your country, written to you and your dignitaries, and employed other creative means to encourage Mr. Gross's release. Yet these attempts thus far have been futile, and Mr. Gross's ongoing detention in your country presents a major obstacle to any further actions to improve our bilateral relations," the letter says.
The letter was dated Monday and addressed to the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, which Cuba maintains instead of an embassy. A spokesman for the Cuban Interests Section did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday morning.
"Until Alan is released and returns home, we will let the world know how Cuba is violating the rights of an individual American citizen," Cardin said in a statement released along with the letter.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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