(JTA) — U.S. government contractor Alan Gross, whom the State Department says was in Cuba to assist Cuban Jews, will go on trial in Cuba next month on charges of acts against the state.
Gross was charged in Cuba on Feb. 4 with "acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the state," a charge that carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence. U.S. officials will attend the trial, which likely will be in front of a panel of judges, Reuters reported. The trial is expected to last a couple of days.
Cuban authorities detained Gross in late 2009 on his way out of the country, saying he was a spy. Gross’ family and State Department officials say he was in the country on a U.S. Agency for International Development contract to help the country’s 1,500 Jews communicate with other Jewish communities using the Internet. The main Jewish groups in Cuba have denied any contact with or knowledge of Gross or the program.
Gross reportedly is being held in a military hospital; he is suffering from health problems and is reported to have lost 90 pounds.
On Thursday, Gross’ wife, Judy, pleaded with the Cuban government to release her husband on humanitarian grounds. Gross’ daughter, 26, has breast cancer, and his mother has been diagnosed with lung cancer.