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Mother appeals for son's release from Cuban prison

Diseases and IllnessesBarbara A. MikulskiChristopher Van Hollen Jr.John SarbanesHillary Clinton

The 89-year-old mother of Alan Gross, the Maryland man who is serving 15 years in a Cuban prison after taking cellphones, laptop computers and satellite equipment into the communist nation, released a video statement Thursday appealing to President Raúl Castro for his release.

"I'm going to be 90 in April, and that means maybe I have time, maybe I don't," Evelyn Gross says. "But I have lung cancer in both lungs, and it stands to reason I'm not going to be here for any length of time, so I want to see my son; I want to see him to come home so he can be with us."

Alan Gross, who grew up in the Baltimore area and lived in Potomac, was trying to help Cuba's small Jewish community set up an intranet and gain better access to the Internet as a subcontractor to the U.S. Agency for International Development. Saturday marks the second anniversary of his arrest, during his fifth visit to the Caribbean island nation.

Evelyn Gross appealed to Castro as a fellow parent.

"If you had a child that was away in a foreign country and not being able to be with you for this length of time, I'm sure you wouldn't be happy about that either," she said.

Also Thursday, Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin sent bipartisan letters to Cuba's top diplomat in Washington calling for his release. Van Hollen's letter was co-signed by 72 House members, including fellow Marylanders Elijah E. Cummings Steny H. Hoyer, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes. Cardin's was co-signed by 18 senators, including Barbara A. Mikulski.

In a separate letter, eight House members urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to demand Gross's release.

"Mr. Gross's continued incarceration is viewed by all Members of Congress, regardless of their political views on Cuba, as a major setback in bilateral relations," read the letters to Jorge Bolanos, chief of mission at the Cuban Interests Section. "It is unlikely that any further positive steps can or will be taken by the Obama Administration or this Congress as long as Mr. Gross remains in a Cuban jail."

Gross's family is working to raise the profile of his case to put pressure on U.S. and Cuban officials to resolve it.

His wife, Judy, appeared at a vigil outside the Cuban Interests Section in Washington on Monday.

"We really are pushing for people to know him," Judy Gross said this week. "For his case to be known, and for people in the country to know that he's sitting in that jail languishing away."

matthew.brown@baltsun.com

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