Jewish groups welcomed Cuba’s release of Jewish American aid worker Alan Gross after five years in prison, they said Wednesday.
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“We rejoice with Alan Gross’ family and friends at his release from Cuba,” said Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman. “For five long years, Mr. Gross’ incarceration has been used by the Cuban government for political purposes on issues that had nothing to do with him and his alleged activities.”
"We are most pleased by the reports of the release of Alan Gross from imprisonment in Cuba and await his return to the Unites States," said Robert Sugarman and Malcolm Hoenlein, the leaders of the Conference of Presidents, an umbrella group representing 50 U.S. Jewish organizations. “We are especially pleased that he will be reunited with his family in time for the celebration of the Chanukah festival,” they said in a statement.
Both groups noted that they had urged Cuba to release Gross and pressed international leaders to advocate for his release.
Gross was detained in December 2009 while working to set up Internet access as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, which does work promoting democracy in the communist country. It was his fifth trip to Cuba to work with Jewish communities on setting up Internet access that bypassed local censorship.
Bonnie Rubinstein, Gross' sister, heard the news from a cousin, who saw it on television.
"We're like screaming and jumping up and down," she said in a brief telephone interview from her home in Texas.
Cuba considers USAID's programs illegal attempts by the U.S. to undermine its government, and Gross was tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Gross' family has said he was in ailing health. His wife, Judy, said in a statement earlier this month that Gross has lost more than 100 pounds, can barely walk due to chronic pain, and has lost five teeth and much of the sight in his right eye.