Alan Gross - AP 2.12.2010
Alan and Judy Gross. Photo by AP
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American Jewish Organizations appealed Friday to Cuban President Raul Castro to release Jewish American Alan Gross from prison on humanitarian grounds, after he was charged with "crimes against the state."

The appeal – sent by leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and its 51 member organizations – requested that Gross be reunited with his family in the United States.

Gross, 61, has been held in a Cuban jail since December 3, 2009 and faces charges of “Acts against the Independence and Territorial Integrity of the State”. He awaits trial on March 4th. If convicted, Gross could face up to 20 years in prison.

"Mr. Gross has long been an active and committed member of the Jewish community in the United States. He has lived his life following the Jewish teachings of tikkun olam (“repairing the world”), as demonstrated by the multiple humanitarian projects he has developed around the world – from the Middle East to Latin America," said Conference of Presidents Chairman Alan Solow and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein in the letter to President Castro.

"His work has touched and improved the lives of thousands of people. When Mr. Gross was arrested he believed he was advancing his humanitarian work in Cuba," the letter continued.

"If his work had any political implications this was something he did not, or could not, appreciate," it added.

Cuban authorities have accused Gross in the past of illegally importing satellite communications equipment and possibly spying.

But according to Gross’ family and U.S. State Department officials, he was in Cuba on a U.S. Agency for International Development contract to help the Jewish community communicate with other Jewish communities through the Internet.

The letter stated Gross has lost significant weight and is suffering from serious physical ailments as well as from extreme mental stress and anguish because of his daughter’s cancer.