On the third anniversary of the day a U.S. government sub-contractor was jailed in Cuba for a project he was completing for the U.S. Agency for International Development, Washington again called for his release.
After serving three years of a 15-year sentence for what Cuban authorities call "Acts against the Independence or Territorial Integrity of the Cuban State," family members and the Obama administration are asking the Cuban government to let Maryland resident Alan Gross go.
"Mr. Gross is a 63-year-old husband, father, and dedicated professional with a long history of providing assistance and support to underserved communities in more than 50 countries," State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement released today.
When he was arrested, Gross was in Cuba working on a project for Development Alternatives, Inc., a company contracted by USAID, according to court documents.
Gross' wife filed a lawsuit on his behalf in November accusing DAI and USAID of failing to fully inform Gross of the risks associated with his tasks in Cuba, and failing to fully train him and supervise the selection process that got him the job. The couple is seeking $20 million in compensation from USAID.
Documents from the lawsuit against USAID say Gross was in Cuba to help "improve internet access for the Jewish community in Cuba."
Judy Gross said she believes her husband's story has gotten lost in the shuffle in comparison with those of other Americans jailed in foreign countries, according to The Associated Press.
The United States has at least a moral responsibility to intervene on Gross' behalf, according to American University Professor Phillip Brenner.
"This work he was doing was on behalf of the United States. Whether they have a legal responsibility, I think the court has to decide that," Brenner said. "Whether they have an ethical -- a moral -- responsibility, there's no question that they do."
President Obama has been following Gross' case and requested that the Cuban government release him, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today at a press briefing.
"The Cuban government should release Alan Gross and return him to his family where he belongs," Carney said.
Appeals for Gross' release have focused on the humanitarian aspect of his imprisonment.
Rabbi David Shneyer visited Gross in fall 2011. In a newsletter to his congregation, Shneyer described how the Cuban jail officials "created a comfortable space with two couches and a table with refreshments" for him to meet with Gross.
Shneyer told ABC News Gross is doing his best "to endure his imprisonment emotionally, spiritually and physically."
"I do know that Alan has lost a tremendous [amount] of weight," Shneyer wrote in an email.
Gross has lost more than 100 pounds in the last three years, a fact that Brenner said his wife points to as evidence he might have cancer. According to the Cuban government, Gross tested negative for cancer in October.