Exclusive: Jewish group visits Alan Gross in Cuban jail

In this file handout photo provided by the Gross family shows Alan and Judy Gross.
AP Photo/Gross Family, File
Alan and Judy Gross
This handout photo provided by the Gross family shows Alan and Judy Gross.

HAVANA - American contractor Alan Gross, serving a 15-year sentence for sedition, was allowed a visit Monday morning by leaders of Cuba's Jewish community.

President Adela Dworin of the Jewish Community of Cuba says they delivered traditional Passover food to a "visibly emotional" Gross, who Dworin describes as being in "a good physical state."

In an e-mail to CBS News, Dworin said Cuban authorities had authorized the "humanitarian visit" that lasted 30 minutes. She was accompanied by the Community's vice-president David Prinstein.

The visit "took place in a cordial atmosphere during which Mr. Gross expressed interest in Jewish activities in Cuba," wrote Dworin.

Gross was arrested in December 2009 and sentenced following a two-day trial last month for smuggling in illegal Internet equipment that could be used by government opponents to escape official controls and promote regime change.

Gross's U.S. lawyer has filed an appeal with Cuba's Supreme Court that is pending consideration by the judges. His wife, Judy Gross, who attended his trial, has pleaded for his release on humanitarian grounds.

The U.S. Government insists he was only working to improve internet access for the island's Jewish community but that has been denied by Dworin and other local Jewish activists.

Gross was employed by the Bethesda-based Development Alternatives Inc., which received a $4.5 million contract for the U.S. Agency for International Development to distribute satellite equipment - some of it illegal in Cuba - as part of Washington's long term efforts to promote democracy in a Castro-free Cuba.

The U.S. State Department has declared Gross' imprisonment a major obstacle to any improvement in bilateral relations.