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Lawyer: Maryland man’s health declining in Cuba prison

WASHINGTON — A lawyer for an American imprisoned in Cuba for more than two years says his client’s health is declining and that Cuba is withholding the results of medical tests performed on him last month.

Peter Kahn, a lawyer for Alan Gross, said he sent a letter Monday to Cuba’s top diplomat in Washington requesting the test results. He said the Maryland man now has difficulty walking and has developed a mass behind his right shoulder blade.

Kahn said Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor who was working in Cuba when he was imprisoned in 2009, was told the test results would be provided so that American doctors could look at them. But he said that hasn’t happened though other test results have been provided in the past.

“They still haven’t shown up, and we’re not getting a straight answer as to why, which causes us even more concern because maybe there is something serious going on here,” Kahn said.

The Cuban government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Gross, 63, was sentenced to 15 years for crimes against the state after he brought restricted communications equipment to the communist island nation while on a democracy-building program.

Kahn did not release the letter he sent to Jorge Bolanos, Cuba’s ambassador in Washington, but said he would wait for a response. He did provide a photo of Gross taken in May that shows he has lost a significant amount of weight.

Gross’ family has said the American had lost more than 100 pounds since being imprisoned in Cuba. But his health has worsened recently. Kahn said Gross used to walk in circles around his cell and do pull-ups but that he is no longer able to do so.

Cuban doctors told Gross he has emphysema, severe degenerative arthritis and a hematoma, a gathering of blood under the skin, on his shoulder.

His wife, Judy Gross, who now lives in Washington, D.C., has been sending over-the-counter drugs and a prescription cholesterol medication. But the medications are taking a long time to reach him, and she expressed worries about his health in an e-mailed statement.

“I am afraid that he is slipping away, and the Cubans’ refusal to provide his recent medical results only heightens my concerns. I am worried they might be concealing something,” she wrote.

Kahn said that Alan Gross is concerned about his health and also the health of his family, including his mother who has inoperable lung cancer. Kahn wrote directly to Cuban President Raul Castro in March asking that Gross be allowed to travel to his mother’s home in Texas for two weeks in April in order to be with her and celebrate her 90th birthday. Kahn promised Gross would return to Cuba, but he did not receive a reply.

In March, a judge in Miami allowed a Cuban intelligence agent on probation in the United States to fly to Cuba to visit his brother, who also has lung cancer. Rene Gonzalez later returned to finish serving a three-year probation sentence. The ruling had raised hopes Cuba might reciprocate with a similar humanitarian gesture for Gross.

“He gave his word that he was going to return, and he was a man of his word and he did return. There’s no reason why Alan shouldn’t be trusted in the same context,” Kahn said.

2 comments

  1. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL:
    ON THE CASE OF FIVE CUBANS IMPRISONED IN THE US FOR PROTECTING CUBA AGAINST TERRORISM
    DOCUMENT – USA: THE CASE OF THE CUBAN FIVE.
    http://amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR51/093/2010/en/37243f8f-e69f-465a-adcc-902be3e5301c/amr510932010en.html

    The United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

    In May 2005, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted an opinion on the case in which it concluded that US government had failed to guarantee the Cuban five a fair trial under Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a treaty the USA has ratified. While noting that the case was still pending before the US appeal courts, The Working Group stated that its findings were made on the basis of the facts and circumstances described, the responses received from the US government and further comments by the complaint’s source.6

  2. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL:
    ON THE CASE OF FIVE CUBANS IMPRISONED IN THE US FOR PROTECTING CUBA AGAINST TERRORISM
    DOCUMENT – USA: THE CASE OF THE CUBAN FIVE.
    http://amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR51/093/2010/en/37243f8f-e69f-465a-adcc-902be3e5301c/amr510932010en.html

    The United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

    The Working Group based its opinion on three factors, including the prejudicial impact of holding the trial in Miami. It also found that keeping the defendants in solitary confinement for part of their lengthy pre-trial detention, during which they allegedly had limited access to their attorneys and to evidence, and classifying all documents in the case as “secret”, weakened the possibilities of an adequate defence and “undermined the equal balance between the prosecution and the defense”. Taking into account the severe sentences imposed, the Working Group concluded that the factors cited above, “combined together, are of such gravity that they confer the deprivation of liberty of these five persons an arbitrary character”.7 It called on the government to adopt the necessary steps to remedy the situation.
    The US government responded to the opinion by letter dated 6 September 2005, expressing its disappointment that the Working Group had issued its opinion while the matter was under active judicial review and pending appeal in the United States at that time. In reporting on the response in its annual report, the Working Group noted that the doctrine of exhaustion of domestic remedy did not apply as a criterion for the admissibility of its communications to governments when investigating cases of alleged arbitrary deprivation of liberty.