Havana – The leader of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. met here Wednesday with U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross, who is serving a 15-year sentence in a Cuban prison.
"Two of us went to see him today ... We had a good conversation, and we're grateful for the government for enabling us to have that visit," the Rev. Michael Kinnamon told reporters in Havana after he and another member of a delegation of U.S. clergy met with Gross.
"We have concerns for his health, but he's in good spirits," Kinnamon said of the 62-year-old prisoner, who is reported to have lost more than 100 pounds (45 kilos) during his confinement and to be suffering from various medical problems.
Gross was arrested in Havana on Dec. 3, 2009, in possession of satellite communications equipment he said he was planning to distribute among Cuba's Jewish community.
Havana says he was illegally aiding dissidents and inciting subversion on the Communist-ruled island. In August, Cuba's highest court upheld the 15-year jail sentence imposed on Gross in March.
Kinnamon and his delegation held talks earlier this week with Cuban parliament speaker Ricardo Alarcon and with the Communist Party's top official for religious affairs, Caridad Diego.
The visitors met Wednesday with relatives of five Cuban intelligence agents jailed in the United States.
The "Cuban Five" - Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez - were arrested in 1998 and convicted three years later by a federal jury in Miami.
Though one of the group, Rene Gonzalez, completed his custodial sentence in October and was released, he has not been permitted to go home, as the federal courts say he must serve his three-year probation on U.S. soil.
The spouses of three of the men asked Kinnamon and the other clergy to raise awareness in the United States about the plight of their husbands.
"We need for people like you to help us break the wall of silence, because very little is known about this case in the U.S.," Labañino's wife, Elizabeth Palmeiro, said during the encounter.
Rev. Kinnamon said he and his colleagues plan to meet Thursday with diplomats at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana and that they have yet to receive a response to their request for talks with Cuban President Raul Castro.