Tough year for wife of man detained as spy in Cuba

By Jessica Gresko

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Dec. 2 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

WASHINGTON — In the year her American husband has been detained in Cuba, accused of spying for the U.S., Judy Gross has been forced to sell the family home in Maryland and move into a small apartment in Washington. Her younger daughter, distraught and crying as her father's birthday approached, crashed and totaled her car. Her older daughter has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

More than 1,100 miles away, Alan Gross passes his days in a Cuban military hospital, watching baseball on a small television or jamming with his jailers on a stringed instrument they gave him.

When Alan Gross left for Cuba last December, his wife says he planned to spend just 10 days there helping to set up Internet access for members of the country's small Jewish population, believed to number about 1,500.

He was arrested at his hotel a year ago Friday, accused by Cuban President Raul Castro and other senior leaders of spying.

"Every morning I wake up and for a few seconds it's like a normal morning, and then I remember ... he's gone," his wife, Judy Gross, told The Associated Press in an interview.

His detention has become a sticking point in relations between the U.S. and Cuba, two countries that have been at odds for decades. U.S. officials have denied claims he is a spy and said no progress on the relationship between the countries can be made until Gross is released.

He was a subcontractor for an economic development organization called Development Alternatives Inc. of Bethesda, Md. His work was part of a program of the U.S. Agency for International Development, a government agency that provides economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide but has also been criticized by Cuba for seeking to promote democratic change on the island.

The specifics of what he was doing or what he might have done to upset the Cuban government are unclear.

Judy Gross is adamant that her husband is not a spy. After all, she says, why would the U.S. government pick someone who didn't know Spanish?

"He's a humanitarian, an idealist, and probably was naive and maybe not understanding enough of what he was getting himself into ... that he could be arrested," she said.

The Cuban government did not respond to requests for comment, but officials have said previously that Gross' case is pending, and that there is nothing unusual about the long period he has spent in jail without being charged.

His wife doesn't know what he might have put in his suitcase, whether he had electronic equipment that could have angered the Cuban government, which keeps strict control over communication on the island. But she says he never went anywhere without his laptop and a cell phone.

Judy Gross says he was working at a Jewish community center in Havana, helping Jewish groups on the island communicate with one another and get access to the Internet so they could look at Wikipedia and online prayer books. The visit was his fifth to help the same group, Judy Gross said.

The leaders of Cuba's two main Jewish groups say they haven't worked with Alan Gross, who is Jewish. While it is possible Gross was working with one of the other Jewish groups scattered across the island, they represent very small numbers of people.

Adela Dworin, president of Havana's Temple Beth Shalom and Cuba's largest Jewish organization, the Jewish Community House, told The Associated Press it's possible Gross came to the center as one of hundreds of foreign visitors it receives each year. But she said she doesn't remember meeting him and he certainly was not doing any work with her group.

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