Judy Gross, wife of the U.S. contractor serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba for subversion, urged President Barack Obama on Friday to give the case top priority and to take action to get her husband released by designating a special envoy.

"I urge President Obama to make my husband's case a top priority," she said at a press conference three days from the third anniversary of Alan Gross' arrest in Havana.

Now 63, Gross was detained 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. Last August, Cuba's highest court upheld the 15-year jail sentence imposed on Gross five months earlier.

"I cannot and will not allow my husband to die in a Cuban prison," Judy Gross said at the National Press Club in Washington.

"President Obama needs to send a high-level envoy to Cuba, who has the authority to discuss the range of issues in the bilateral relationship and to take whatever decisions are necessary to bring Alan home," the Gross family's lawyer, Jared Genser, said.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson went to Cuba as an intermediary in the case in September 2011.

Asked by Efe about that attempt, Judy Gross said "that was then and nothing happened, it didn't work," so something like that has to be tried again.

Regarding the suggestion that Cuba might free Gross in exchange for freeing the group of Cubans sentenced for espionage in the United States, Genser said that the family is focusing solely on getting Gross released. EFE