(JTA) — Jimmy Carter is scheduled to visit Jewish leaders during a trip to Cuba, leading to speculation that the former U.S. president will ask the Cuban government to release jailed American contractor Alan Gross.
Carter, who is well known for his activism on behalf of human rights, will spend three days in Cuba on a private visit to discuss ways to improve U.S.-Cuba relations, according to reports. He is scheduled to meet with President Raul Castro and other Cuban officials.
According to an agenda released by Cuba’s Foreign Relations Ministry, Carter is scheduled to visit a Jewish institution shortly after arriving Monday, The Associated Press reported.
Gross was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison earlier this month for crimes against the state. Cuban authorities detained Gross in late 2009 on his way out of the country, saying he was a spy.
His family and State Department officials say Gross 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, 61, is in ill health. His daughter has breast cancer and his mother was diagnosed recently with cancer, as well.
Cuba and the United States have not had diplomatic relations since the 1960s. The U.S. has economic and financial sanctions in place against the island nation.