Alan Gross, 63, is a U.S. contractor jailed in Cuba serving a 15-year sentence for providing internet gear to Cubans under a U.S. program. On Friday, Gross’s wife filed a lawsuit at the U.S. District Court in Washington on behalf of Gross and herself alleging that the U.S. government and Gross’s employer, Development Alternatives Inc (DAI), had “failed to disclose adequately to Mr. Gross, both before and after he began traveling to Cuba, the material risks that he faced due to his participation in the project.” Gross was jailed in 2009 and convicted in Cuba for crimes against the state as the communist government there sees the act of providing Internet gear to Cubans as subversive action.
The lawsuits also alleges that the U.S. government and DAI had failed to adequately train and protect Gross on his trips to Cuba, and they repeatedly ignored security concerns so that DAI could keep earning money and the U.S. government “could continue to use Mr. Gross as a pawn in its Cuban policy initiatives.”
In a separate lawsuit against Federal Insurance Co, Gross and his wife have accused Federal Insurance of wrongfully refusing benefits under “a wrongful detention” clause. The Department of Justice spokesman Charles Miller said the case is being reviewed.
Gross went to Cuba five times working as a subcontractor for DAI. The Maryland based DAI had a contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development. Gross has submitted that he went to Cuba to help the island’s Jewish community and not for political purposes, and that he was working on a U.S. government project intended to increase the availability of Internet access to the Jews in Cuba.
Though the U.S. government has repeatedly demanded the release of Mr. Gross, he is serving time in a Cuban jail. Gross’s wife complained that since his detention, Gross has lost about 45 kg and has developed a probable cancerous tumor beneath his shoulder blade. The family has a history of cancer and both Gross’s daughter and mother are affected.
USAID has said that the job of Gross was “simply facilitating Internet connectivity to the Cuban people so they could communicate with the rest of the world.” However, Cuba alleges that Gross tried to work undercover and was in the know of political missions. Gross was charged with bringing three satellite Internet terminals and other electronic equipment into Cuba.
When placed on trial in Cuba, Gross had told the court “I did nothing in Cuba that is not done on a daily basis in millions of homes and offices around the world … I am deeply sorry for being a trusting fool. I was duped, I was used.”
The lead counsel of Gilbert LLP, representing Mr. Gross said, “What is mind-boggling is that this never should have come to pass. The destruction of this family is the direct result of a project approved, overseen and administered by DAI and our government that was flawed from conception and pursued with complete disregard for Mr. Gross’s safety and well-being.”