A decision on whether to allow jailed U.S. contractor Alan Gross to visit his terminally ill mother rests with the Cuban government, the Communist-ruled island's top judge said Wednesday.
"We don't have the request in the tribunal, we are not evaluating the request in the tribunal. It's a request that has been made at the level of state and government and it is up to those authorities to speak out on it," the chief justice of the Supreme People's Tribunal, Ruben Remigio Ferro, told reporters in Havana.
Gross' request "is not a judicial matter as such," he said at the opening of the 6th International Justice and Law Encounter.
"The issue of exit permits for someone who is serving a sentence, as is the case of Mr. Gross, is an issue that is handled at the governmental level," Ferro said.
Now 63, 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. Last August, Cuba's highest court upheld the 15-year prison sentence imposed on Gross, who was in Havana as part of a contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development.
In March, Gross wrote a letter to Cuban President Raul Castro seeking a two-week furlough from prison to visit his dying mother in the United States.
Havana responded by suggesting that Gross' mother visit her son in prison, a proposal that the contractor told CNN's "Situation Room" earlier this month was "baloney."
"She is medically ordered not to travel. And the government of Cuba knows this," Gross said in a live interview with the cable network.
Rene Gonzalez, one of the five Cuban intelligence agents sentenced to prison in the United States for spying, was recently permitted to visit his gravely ill brother in Cuba.
Gonzalez completed his jail term last year but must serve three years' probation on U.S. soil before he can return to Cuba. Federal prosecutors opposed his application to visit his brother, but a judge rejected their arguments.
Havana has publicly hinted it would be prepared to free Gross outright in exchange for the return of the "Cuban Five," four of whom remain in U.S. prisons.
Cuba acknowledges the men were intelligence agents, but says they were spying on Miami's Cuban exile community, not the U.S. government.
The U.S. government rejects any notion of a swap.
"There is no equivalence between these situations. On the one hand, you have convicted spies in the United States and on the other hand you have an assistance worker who should never have been locked up in the first place," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said earlier this month. EFE