Bethesda man imprisoned in Cuba suing employer, U.S. government

The family of an American man imprisoned in Cuba for nearly three years is suing his former Maryland employer and the United States government, saying they didn't adequately train him or disclose the risks he was undertaking by doing development work on the Communist island.

The family of 63-year-old Alan Gross sued Friday in federal court in Washington.

The lawsuit says that the economic development company Gross was working for and the U.S. government, which the company had a contract with, failed to "provide Mr. Gross with the education and training that was necessary to minimize the risk of harm to him."

Gross was arrested in Cuba in December 2009 while on his fifth trip to the country as a subcontractor for Development Alternatives, Inc., an economic development company based in Bethesda. The company, known as DAI, was doing work for the U.S. government agency that provides economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide, the U.S. Agency for International Development.

A telephone message left Friday afternoon for a spokesman for DAI was not immediately returned.

Gross has said he was working to provide Internet service to the island's small Jewish community, but USAID has also been criticized by Cuba for seeking to promote democratic change on the island. Cuba says the multi-million dollar programs are a veiled attempt by Washington to undermine the government.

Gross' wife, Judy, who now lives in Washington, has previously said her husband feels he was misled by DAI. Judy Gross said in a 2011 interview with The Associated Press that her husband wanted reassurance that what he was doing was legal, but the company refused to contact Cuban officials and refused to let him contact anyone. She said her husband expressed concern about the trip to a co-worker and was told: "If anything happens you'll be out two days. Don't worry."

Gross was tried in a Cuban court on charges of crimes against the state and sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2011. In testimony from the trial previously released, Gross he called himself a "trusting fool."

"I was duped. I was used. And my family and I have paid dearly for this," he said, though the excerpt does not say who Gross feels misled him.

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