By Matthew Hay Brown, The Baltimore Sun
11:17 PM EDT, June 4, 2012
A daughter of Cuban president Raúl Castro says the United States should release five imprisoned Cuban intelligence officers in exchange for the Maryland aid worker held for more than two years in Havana.
"I think that the six must be released — both the five Cubans and Alan Gross," Mariela Castro Espin told CNN'sChristiane Amanpour in an interview to be aired Tuesday.
Gross, who grew up in Baltimore and lived in Potomac, was detained in December 2009 after taking communications equipment to the communist nation. He was convicted by a Cuban court last year of crimes against the state and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Cuba watchers were surprised by the length of his sentence, and surprised again that he wasn't released soon after sentencing.
President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. Ben Cardin and Rep. Chris Van Hollen all have urged his release. Former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson have made personal appeals to the Cuban government during visits to the island.
Castro Espin, who heads the Cuban National Center for Sex Education in Havana, was granted a visa to enter the United States last month for an academic conference in San Francisco.
She told Amanpour that Gross "has been granted everything that he's asked for: He has been able to see his wife, he has been able to have matrimonial, conjugal visits, and he has been treated with respect and dignity the way we always treat prisoners in Cuba.
"We haven't received the same treatment, on the other hand, for our five prisoners who have very long sentences that are not right."
Gross, 63, has said he has asked Cuban authorities for permission to leave while an adult daughter was being treated for breast cancer, and more recently to visit his ailing mother before she dies. Neither request was honored.
The Cuban Five — Fernando González, René González, Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernández and Ramón Labañino — were arrested in 1998 and accused of espionage against U.S. Southern Command, headquartered in Miami, and several Cuban exile organizations in South Florida.
They were convicted on charges related to monitoring exile groups and attempting to infiltrate military installations and given sentences that ranged from 15 years to life.
René González was released from prison in 2011 but must remain in the United States while on probation until 2014. He was granted permission by a judge this spring to visit Cuba for two weeks to visit an ailing brother.
Gross was working as a subcontractor to the U.S. Agency for International Development in an attempt to helpCuba'ssmall Jewish community set up an intranet and gain better access to the Internet.
The veteran aid worker, who had not worked in Cuba and did not speak Spanish, made several trips to the Caribbean island nation before he was arrested.
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