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Cuba Upholds Prison Sentence For Md. Man Arrested For Spying

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Mike Schuh joined WJZ Eyewitness News as a general assignment reporter...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)– It’s final. A 61-year-old Maryland man’s 15 year-sentence for spying is upheld by the Cuban Supreme Court.

Cuba says Alan Gross brought electronics into their country to help spread democracy. He says it was to help the people. This is a story WJZ has been following closely for months, and Mike Schuh has the reaction.

When the Bush administration sought to spread democracy to communist Cuba, a Bethesda aid organization won the $6 million contract.

Development Alternatives hired Baltimore native and Potomac resident Alan Gross. He gave computer and satellite phone equipment to Cuban Jewish groups to connect to the internet. But by doing that, in 2009, he was arrested as a spy.

Soon, his wife pleaded for Cuban authorities to show mercy.

“Alan has done nothing wrong and we need him home,” said Judy Gross.

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison– a decision widely denounced.

“We call on the government of Cuba to release him,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

“We want him set free,” said civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.

“He obviously professes his innocence as he did in his trial,” former President Jimmy Carter said.

That 15-year sentence was appealed. And today, the Cuban Supreme Court reaffirmed the decision– no release, and a 15-year prison sentence.

“This is a political sentence given to him to try to get at the United States,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland’s 8th district.

Alan Gross’s rabbi told Eyewitness News: “(I’m) deeply saddened by the news. Our government has a responsibility to do more to secure his release.”

“He has spent too many days in detention and should not spend one more,” National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

Meantime, his family holds out hope.

“We’re hoping that you can find a way to help get him home to the U.S.,” Judy Gross said.

Gross’ attorney tells Eyewitness News that his family is heartbroken at what happened. Cuban scholars though, think that the Cubans intend to send a message, then eventually release Gross, in order to improve relations with the U.S.

Gross has lost 90 lbs. while in detention. He’s not in a Cuban prison, but is being held at a hospital at a Cuban military base.

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