Judy Gross, the wife of Alan Gross, who has been imprisoned in Cuba since Dec. 2009, is more worried for her husband’s safety than ever before.
The U.S. government sub-contractor’s mother died of cancer last week, and his wife said in a statement released Wednesday from Havana, where she was visiting her husband in jail, "I am extremely worried that Alan is going to do something drastic now that his mother is gone."
The statement also made a direct plea to the White House. "My husband and I need President Obama to do everything in his power to end this nightmare and bring Alan home from Cuba now."
Gross, 65, was convicted in March 2011 of “acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state," and is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence.
During his time incarcerated, Gross started a hunger strike in April to protest his confinement and pressure Washington and Havana resolve his case. He ended it after nine days at the request of his mother, Evelyn Gross, who died June 18 in Texas.
He has lost more than 100 pounds, is losing vision in his right eye and "both of his hips are failing," his wife’s statement read.
Scott Gilbert, the Grosses' U.S. lawyer, said, "I am extremely worried that Alan is becoming more despondent every day. Both governments need to know that Alan plans to end his life in an effort to end this agony."
U.S. and Cuban officials did not have immediate comment.
Gross was arrested while working to set up unauthorized Internet networks for the island's Jewish community on a contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development, a government entity.
He says his activities were no threat to Cuba. But Havana considers such programs an affront to its sovereignty, and Gross was convicted under a statute governing crimes against the state.
Cuba has made clear it wants to work out a solution involving three intelligence agents serving long prison terms in the United States on spy-related charges.
Washington says the cases are not comparable.
Judy Gross suggested that a swap should be on the table, noting the recent exchange of five detainees at Guantánamo for a U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan.
"If we can trade five members of the Taliban to bring home one American soldier," she said, "surely we can figure out a path forward to bring home one American citizen from a Cuban prison."
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.