Photo Credit:
Alan Gross

She described testimony at Gross’s trial by an elderly Cuban Jewish man who needed assistance in getting to the stand.

“When the prosecutor asked him what Alan showed him on the Internet, he became emotional and said, ‘We saw the world!’ ” she recounted. “A bit taken aback by this response, the prosecutor asked the witness to explain further. He said that Alan used the Internet to show them places they had never seen before – pictures of the Western Wall in Jerusalem and the city of London. Clearly he did so through Google Earth, something we take so much for granted in our country.”

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Gross’s backers still hold out hope that the Cubans may consider his release, although the news from last year is not good; his lawyers have exhausted the Cuban appeals system, up to and including a plea to President Castro.

Additionally, the reported Cuban request in exchange for Gross’s release – the release of the “Cuban Five,” U.S.-based Cuban intelligence officers arrested in 1998 and convicted in 2001 – would be difficult in the best of times. In an election year it is seen as impossible given the anti-Castro sentiments prevailing in Florida, a swing state.

Hoenlein said the Presidents Conference is continuing its appeal to figures and countries that may have influence with Cuba.

Daroff said the burden of securing Gross’s release was on the entity that sent him on his mission: the U.S. government.

USAID spokesmen did not return multiple requests for comment. State Department officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have said that securing Gross’s release is a priority.

(JTA)

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