WASHINGTON (WJZ) — The Maryland man who spent five years locked away in a Cuban prison is speaking about the experience in his first interview since being released.

Tracey Leong has the details of his last moments as a prisoner and his hopes for freedom.

It has been nearly a year since Alan Gross was released from a Cuban prison. Sunday night on 60 Minutes, he told Scott Pelley how he was able to survive in captivity.

“I said to myself, `Where the hell are they?'” he said. “`Where are they?'”

A Cuban prisoner for more than five years, Alan Gross never thought he’d be in that long.

Gross was a US government subcontractor setting up internet connections in Cuba for the Jewish community. Knowing his work in Cuba was dangerous, Gross believed in the job he was doing, saying everyone in the world deserves access to information.

The Cuban government accused him of being a spy and sentenced him to 15 years in prison.

“My heart sunk. Then I thought, you know, we have to start moving furiously and do everything we can,” said his wife, Judy Gross.

Gross’ wife fought to get her husband released, holding protests and never giving up hope.

“They threatened to hang me; they threatened to pull out my fingernails,” Gross said. “They said I would never see the light of day.”

After being imprisoned half a decade, Gross received the news he was waiting for. In a swap for three Cuban prisoners from the US, Gross was going home.

By the end of his imprisonment, he had lost more than 100 pounds and five teeth due to poor nutrition but managed to stay alive.

“I thought about my family that survived the Holocaust. I exercised religiously every day and I found something every day to laugh at,” he said.

In a settlement with the Maryland-based company that employed Gross, he is receiving $3.2 million.

He was freed last December.


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