Alan Gross, the Maryland man who is serving 15 years in a Cuban prison after taking communications equipment into the communist nation, is asking authorities there to let him return to the United States to visit his ailing mother before she dies.

Gross, who grew up in the Baltimore area and lived in Potomac, told CNN that he and his lawyer had written to the Cuban government "on more than one occasion" to request permission to see Evelyn Gross.


"I have a 90-year-old mother who has inoperable lung cancer. And she's not getting any younger. And she's not getting any healthier," he told Wolf Blitzer during a telephone call from the military hospital where he is held.

"My mother is not allowed to travel," he said. "She is medically ordered not to travel. And the government of Cuba knows this."

Gross, 63, has told authorities he would return to Cuba after the visit. He said he has not received a response.

Gross and his family have made several requests for his release on humanitarian grounds. Evelyn Gross spoke of her illness in a video addressed directly to Cuban President Raul Castro. Earlier, Alan Gross asked to be allowed to see a daughter who was being treated for cancer.

The Cuban government has not honored any of the requests.

As a subcontractor to the U.S. Agency for International Development, Alan Gross was trying to help Cuba's small 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 in 2009.

President Barack Obama, Sen. Ben Cardin and Rep. Chris Van Hollen 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.

Gross described the conditions of his confinement in a "secured hospital building" that holds three people to a room. He told Blitzer there are bars on the windows, and he is not allowed to see people other than his cellmates.

Gross said he is allowed outside every day while there's sunlight — "a recent development."

"I didn't really see any sunlight for the first year and a half or so."

Food is brought to the cell.

The food initially wasn't very good, which is probably why I started losing weight rapidly at first," he said. "The food was infested with insects."

He said he has dropped 100 pounds in confinement.