U.S. judge says Cuban spy can remain on the island

Miami, May 3 (EFE).- Rene Gonzalez, currently on probation after serving 13 years in a U.S. prison for espionage, may remain in Cuba - where he traveled last month with court approval - if he agrees to give up his U.S. citizenship, a federal judge said Friday.

"If defendant voluntarily renounces his United States citizenship ... (he) shall serve the remainder of his supervised-release term in Cuba on a non-reporting basis, and shall not return to the United States," U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard ruled.

Gonzalez, a Chicago native, approached federal authorities early in 2012 with the offer to abandon his U.S. citizenship in exchange for their allowing him to return to Cuba, where his wife and daughters live.

Prosecutors recently dropped their objections and Lenard agreed to the proposal.

With Lenard's permission, the 56-year-old Cuban intelligence officer traveled to Cuba late last month to attend his father's funeral. The judge had allowed him to fly to Havana in March 2012 to spend two weeks with his gravely ill brother.

Rene Gonzalez and four colleagues - Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon LabaƱino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez - were arrested in 1998 and convicted three years later by a federal jury in Miami.

The Cuban Five have always insisted they were spying on Miami's Cuban exile community, not the U.S. government.

Cuba says the men were sent to Florida in the wake of several terror bombings in Havana allegedly masterminded by anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative.

The other four spies remain in prison and one of them, Hernandez, is serving two life sentences for Cuba's downing of two small aircraft belonging to Miami-based exile group Brothers to the Rescue, which resulted in four deaths.

U.S. government subcontractor Alan Gross, arrested in Cuba in December 2009 with communications gear he said he planned to distribute among the island's Jewish community, is now at a military hospital in Havana serving a 15-year sentence for subversion.

The Cuban government has hinted that it would release Gross in exchange for the return of the four spies.

Washington, however, dismisses talk of a possible swap and insists that Cuba free Gross immediately and without conditions.