American jailed in Cuba seeks to sue US govt

Representatives of a former US contractor who is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba has filed an appeal seeking to allow their client to sue the US government over his ordeal.

The lawyers for both parties appeared before an appeals court in Washington to present their arguments.

It was unclear when the judges would announce their decision.

Alan Gross, 65, was a contractor with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) when he was arrested in 2009 in Cuba. He was sentenced to 15 years in jail in 2011 for distributing sophisticated telecommunications equipment, after being charged with “crimes against the integrity” of the Cuban state.

Barry Buchman, Gross’ counsel, expressed his confidence that the US Court of Appeals would favour his client, but he declined to comment on either the case or Gross’ current health condition.

The contractor and his wife, Judith, sued the US government and Development Alternatives (DAI) – the firm Gross was working for when he was arrested – in 2012 for $60mn.

The Grosses argued that neither US authorities nor DAI had given him adequate instructions or warned him in advance of the dangers he faced while working on the project he was assigned to in Cuba.

Gross also said neither USAID nor its subcontractor DAI reacted to his concerns while in Cuba.

The prisoner’s family argues that his physical and mental health is suffering greatly as a result of his imprisonment, and that the family as a whole has lost its main source of income.

The Grosses and DAI reached a deal in May 2013, for an undisclosed amount.

That same month, a US federal judge dismissed the complaint against the government, arguing that the law does not allow private citizens to file suit against the US government based on injuries they suffered abroad.

The Gross family appealed.

Gross has been in the news multiple times this year. He is refusing visitors, including his family and representatives of the US interest section in Havana.

The Gross family said in June that he had lost more than 100 pounds and suffered chronic pain. He went on a week-long hunger strike in April to protest the Cuban government as well as the US government’s failure to obtain his release. The Cuban government has offered to exchange him for three Cubans convicted in 1998 of spying and still serving jail sentences in Florida.

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