Verdict in trial of Jewish contractor Alan Gross expected within days
After 2-day trail, the Cuban government awaits verdict in alleged espionage case; prosecution accuses gross of setting up 'clandestine networks of info communications outside the control of Cuban authorities to feed counter-revolutionary provocations.'
The trial of an American Jewish contractor facing up to 20 years in jail on charges he sought to undermine Cuba's government has wrapped up, with no immediate word of a verdict.
The fate of Alan Gross, a 61-year-old Maryland native detained for more than a year on suspicion he tried to bring communications equipment into the communist-run island, is in the hands of a five-judge panel.
A Cuban court will rule in a few days on whether Gross is guilty of crimes against the state after prosecutors presented evidence he was involved in a "subversive project" to "defeat the revolution," the Cuban government said.
The government said Gross tried to set up "clandestine networks of info communications outside the control of Cuban authorities to feed counter-revolutionary provocations" using "sophisticated technologies."
Gross' detention since December 2009 has worsened relations between Cuba and Washington, and U.S. officials say no meaningful rapprochement is possible while he is in jail.
Gross was working under a U.S. program aimed at destabilizing Cuba's communist government and has been jailed since his arrest in Havana on December 3, 2009.
The Cuban government's statement described little about the defense case but said Gross "recognized that he was used and deceived" by DAI, the company that contracted for the Cuba project.
Maryland-based DAI had a contract from the U.S. Agency for International Development to conduct projects aimed at promoting political change on the Caribbean island.
Gross accused DAI of having put him in danger and his current situation of "ruining the life and economy of his family," the statement said.
Gross, who looked gaunt in a business suit on Saturday, was widely expected to be found guilty but he can appeal the decision to Cuba's highest court. Wife Judy Gross said he has lost 90 pounds (41 kg) in jail.
The United States, at loggerheads with Cuba for more than five decades, said he was providing Internet access to Jewish groups but committed no crime.
Reacting to the Cuban statement, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a message on Twitter late on Saturday: "The Alan Gross trial in Cuba has concluded. There is not yet a verdict. We hope he will be released and allowed to return to his family."
The case halted a brief warming in U.S.-Cuban relations and could do lasting damage if Gross is imprisoned for long.
Some observers think a political solution will be reached that will allow Gross to go free soon. Others believe Cuba has little interest in improving relations with the United States, which has imposed a trade embargo against the island since 1962.
Gross worked in Cuba on a tourist visa under a controversial U.S. Agency for International Development program aimed at promoting political change on the island.
The programs have been criticized in the United States for doing little more than provoking the Cuban government.
Cuban leaders view Gross' work as part of long-standing U.S. efforts to sabotage the communist government put in place after Fidel Castro took power in a 1959 revolution.
In a recently leaked video of a Ministry of Interior briefing, an Internet expert equated Gross to the "mercenaries" who took part in the 1961 U.S.-backed and unsuccessful invasion attempt at the Bay of Pigs.
Internet access is limited in Cuba but the expert said the Internet is the latest front in the long ideological war between the two countries.
Cuba was expected to use the trial to put a spotlight on U.S. activities on the island, but excluded foreign press from covering it.
Judy Gross attended the trial with Gross's U.S. lawyer Peter Kahn, who was an observer while Cuban lawyers conducted his client's case.
"The family remains hopeful Alan will be home soon," Kahn said in a statement.
Judy Gross has pleaded for her husband's release on humanitarian grounds because their 26-year-old daughter and Alan Gross' 88-year-old mother both have cancer.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Washington on
Friday the United States was "deeply concerned" about the case and called for his release.
"He's been unjustly jailed for far too long," she said.
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