Lawyers for a U.S. government contractor imprisoned in Cuba said on Tuesday they have asked a UN working group on arbitrary detentions to press for their client's release, AFP reported.
63-year-old Alan Gross has been in prison since December 2009 for distributing laptops and communications equipment to Cuba's small Jewish community, under a U.S. State Department contract.
His wife Judy, who recently visited her husband, said in a statement on Tuesday she was “devastated by his appearance.”
“Alan's health continues to deteriorate. He has lost 105 pounds and developed degenerative arthritis and a mass behind his right shoulder blade. While his spirit remains strong, I fear he is not going to survive this terrible ordeal,” she said in the statement quoted by AFP.
“I beg President (Raul) Castro, as a husband and father himself, to put an end to our anguish and let Alan come home to his loving family, including his dying mother," she added.
The Cuban government has insisted that Gross's health is "normal," and that he is being held in a military hospital, not a prison.
Gross was found guilty in March 2011 and sentenced to 15 years in prison for "acts against the independence or territorial integrity" of the island.
His lawyers said they had asked the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to take up his case and press for his release, citing "violations of international law" in his case.
“Furthermore, the Working Group should urge for Mr. Gross's immediate release and compensation for his wrongful conviction,” the lawyers said, according to AFP.
The lawyers said Gross had made five trips to Cuba to distribute computers and each time had declared them in customs, even getting receipts for the customs duties he paid.
In May, Gross thanked the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC) for their efforts in attempting to secure his release. "It's very comforting to know I'm not forgotten, it helps to sustain me," Gross said.
Recently, Cuba indicated it would consider releasing Gross if the United States frees members of the so-called “Cuban Five,” found guilty in 2001 of trying to infiltrate US military installations in South Florida.
While Cuba has acknowledged that the men were intelligence agents, the government claims that they were gathering information on "terrorist" plots by Cuban expatriates in Florida, not spying on the United States.