Alan Gross Warns of Terminal Hunger Strike

HAVANA (Reuters) -

The lawyer for jailed U.S. contractor Alan Gross told the press in Havana on Wednesday that his client planned to return from Cuba to his family within the year, dead or alive, and called on the Obama administration to do more to obtain his release.

Attorney Scott Gilbert, in Cuba to discuss the case with his client and local authorities, said Gross, 64, was suffering from various ailments and was angry at the U.S. government for not obtaining his release.

“Alan is not doing well. Five years of confinement is taking a toll on him. He has lost some vision in his right eye. He is missing a tooth. He limps because of his hips. He has lost nearly 110 pounds,” Gilbert said.

Gross is serving a 15-year term for illegally attempting to establish internet service on the island. He ended a 9-day hunger strike earlier this month at the urging of his 91-year-old mother.

“Alan told me unequivocally that his 65th birthday on May 2 will be his last birthday that he celebrates in Havana, one way or the other,” Gilbert said.

“Alan is a very determined individual … He means that one year from now if this issue … has not been resolved he will come home dead,” Gilbert emphasized, referring to Gross’s pledge to renew his hunger strike, which he said had also taken a toll on Gross’s health.

Gross was arrested in 2009 while trying to establish an online network for Jews in Havana as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

In 2011 a Cuban court sentenced him to 15 years in prison for illegally providing internet equipment and service under a U.S. program promoting political change that the Cuban government considers subversive.

The United States has repeatedly stated Gross was merely helping the Jewish community communicate internally and outside Cuba.