The U.S. government on Monday urged Cuba to release Alan Gross, a U.S. contractor serving a prison sentence in the country.
"Tomorrow Alan Gross will begin his fourth year of unjustified imprisonment in Cuba," said State Department spokesman Mark Toner at a regular briefing. "The Cuban government should release Alan Gross and return him to his family, where he belongs."
Toner cited a range of health problems that Gross has suffered since his arrest, including significant weight loss and severe arthritis.
"We continue to ask the Cuban Government to grant Alan Gross's request to travel to the United States to visit his 90-year-old mother, Evelyn Gross, who is gravely ill. This is a humanitarian issue," he added.
Gross, 63, was arrested on Dec. 3, 2009 at a Havana airport on charges of providing satellite communication equipment to anti-government groups, but Washington said he was an employee of the Development Alternatives Company and was helping Cuban Jews to communicate with Jews abroad.
In March 2011, a Cuban court handed down a 15-year prison sentence to Gross for spying and working to topple down the Cuban administration.
The case has added a new source of friction between the United States and Cuba, which have not had full diplomatic relations since January 1961.
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