Alan Gross, who was arrested in Cuba five years ago today on charges of espionage, is in rapidly deteriorating health. Sources told ABC News today that Gross “lost all but one of his front teeth, can barely walk because of hip damage, and is blind in one eye.” He remains in his room at the military hospital all day and says he is planning to begin a hunger strike this month.
Gross was arrested at the airport in 2009 under espionage charges as he was leaving Cuba. At the time he was working as a subcontractor for USAID and is said to have been bringing telecommunication devices into the country. He and the American government claim he was only helping the country’s small Jewish population improve their internet connections.
Requests for his release have[gone unmet. A recent offer from Cuba for a prisoner exchange was rejected by the White House on grounds that Gross was acting only in a humanitarian manner. Judy Gross, Alan’s wife, urged the Obama administration to bring her husband home, and soon:
“Alan is resolved that he will not endure another year imprisoned in Cuba, and I am afraid that we are at the end. 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 has pledged to leave the hospital within the next year, even if it means his own death.
Zack Schrieber is an intern at Tablet Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @zschrieber.