Cuba Insists Alan Gross is in Decent Health

Cuba insists that jailed U.S. contractor Alan Gross is in decent health, despite his wife's assertion he has lost more than 100 pounds.

Elad Benari ,

Havana, Cuba
Havana, Cuba

Cuba insisted Wednesday that a jailed U.S. contractor is in decent health, despite his wife's assertion he has lost more than 100 pounds, AFP reported.

Cuba also reiterated that it is open to a deal for the release of 63-year-old Alan Gross, said the report.

Gross has been in prison since December 2009 for distributing laptops and communications equipment to the country's small Jewish community, under a U.S. State Department contract.

His wife Judy, who recently visited her husband, said Tuesday she was devastated by his appearance and feared for his life.

The Cuban Foreign Ministry, however, downplayed her depiction, telling AFP, “Mr. Gross's health continues to be normal, and he does brisk exercise on a regular basis.”

Cuba arranged three visits from Gross’s wife late last week, the Ministry added.

The official who deals with U.S.-related issues, Josefina Vidal, also wrote that Cuba remains prepared to discuss the Gross case with the U.S. government and is still waiting for an answer from Washington.

Gross was found guilty in March of 2011 and sentenced to 15 years in prison for “acts against the independence or territorial integrity” of the communist-ruled island.

In January, Cuba said it was willing to find a "humanitarian solution" on a "reciprocal" basis -- Gross's freedom in exchange for the release of five Cuban agents arrested in the United States in 1998.

They were later convicted of espionage and sentenced to long jail terms. The United States is demanding the immediate release of Gross, and rules out any swap for the agents.

Gross’s lawyers said on Tuesday they have asked a UN working group on arbitrary detentions to press for their client's release.

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.