Alan Gross released from Cuba prison

From CBS News:

American Alan Gross was released from a Cuban prison after five years and departed from the country Wednesday, a U.S. senior administration official confirmed to CBS News.

Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba, was released on humanitarian grounds by the Cuban government at the request of the U.S., the official said.

Gross was on an American government plane bound for the U.S. Wednesday morning, the official said.

Both President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro are expected to speak at noon Eastern time. Mr. Obama will announce significant changes in U.S.-Cuban relations, the official said.

U.S. officials confirmed that three Cuban intelligence officers were freed after Gross was released, CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett reports. But the officials stress that this was not a prisoner swap from the administration’s point of view.

Officials said Gross was not a spy and therefore would not be traded for Cubans who were spies, Garrett reports. The officials said Gross was released on humanitarian grounds, which allowed the administration to make other moves of a conciliatory nature, including but not limited to the release of the Cuban intelligence officers.

Cuba had been asking to swap Gross for the spies, who were captured in Miami in 1998. Amnesty International and a United Nations group have both said that they did not receive a fair trial.

Gross was arrested in December 2009 for smuggling satellite equipment to Cuba as part of a U.S. government pro-democracy program and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He is 65 years old.

He had been in poor mental and physical health, and in a statement marking the fifth anniversary of his imprisonment earlier this month, his wife, Judy Gross, said she believes, “we are at the end.”

“Enough is enough. My husband has paid a terrible price for serving his country and community. Alan is resolved that he will not endure another year imprisoned in Cuba, and I am afraid that we are at the end,” Judy Gross said. “After five years of literally wasting away, Alan is done. It is time for President Obama to bring Alan back to the United States now; otherwise it will be too late.”

Gross had been planning to end his life in the near future as a result of his imprisonment. Last April he went on a hunger strike that lasted for nine days and only ended at the request of his mother, Evelyn Gross, who died in June.

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