Cuba’s top judge: No legal case yet against jailed US contractor nearly 6 months after arrest

By Will Weissert, AP
Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cuba says no case yet against jailed American

HAVANA — Cuba has yet to open a legal case against a U.S. government contractor from Maryland nearly six months after he was arrested as a suspected spy, the head of the island’s high court said Wednesday.

Alan P. Gross was detained Dec. 3 at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport and has been held without charge at the capital’s high-security Villa Marista prison ever since.

Formal charges cannot be filed in Cuba without a judicial accusation and the opening of a court case, so it appears unlikely charges against Gross are imminent even as he approaches a half-year in custody.

It is rare for suspects to be held for extended periods in Cuba without charges or even a case being opened. But Supreme Court President Ruben Remigio said Wednesday that “there still is not a case related to this matter” and he did not know whether prosecutors were working on one.

“The courts receive cases when cases are presented,” Remigio added, speaking on the sidelines of an international legal conference in western Havana. “When they aren’t presented, we don’t have a case.”

The general in charge of investigations for the Interior Ministry attended the same event but declined to comment.

Gross, a 60-year-old native of Potomac, Maryland, came to Cuba as part of a little-known program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

President Raul Castro and the speaker of Cuba’s parliament allege Gross was distributing banned satellite communications equipment and say his capture proves Washington is still out to topple their communist government.

The U.S. State Department has countered for months that Gross is no spy and should be released immediately.

A Washington-based spokeswoman for his family said they had no comment Wednesday. Gross’ wife, Judy, previously said he is a veteran development worker who was helping Cuba’s Jewish community use the Internet to communicate among themselves and with similar groups abroad.

She says her husband brought communications equipment intended for humanitarian purposes, not for use by Cuba’s small dissident community.

Satellite phones and other telecommunications materials are outlawed in this country, where the government maintains strict control over Internet access and the media.

Officials from the U.S. Interest Section, which Washington maintains in Havana instead of an embassy, have been granted three consular visits to see Gross in prison, but have been otherwise largely silent on the matter.

Cheryl Mills, chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, raised the case in March during a meeting with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez during a U.N. conference on aid for Haiti.

Also pressing for Gross’ release was Craig Kelly, deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, who became the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Cuba in years when he came here for immigration talks in February.

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