U.S. contractor Gross mounts hunger strike to demand release from Cuban jail

Washington, Apr 8 (EFE).- Alan Gross, the U.S. government contractor serving a 15-year sentence in Cuba after being convicted of subversion, began a hunger strike on April 3 to demand both Havana and Washington for his release, his attorney said Tuesday.

"I am fasting to object to mistruths, deceptions, and inaction by both governments, not only regarding their shared responsibility for my arbitrary detention, but also because of the lack of any reasonable or valid effort to resolve this shameful ordeal," Gross told his U.S. legal team.

The Maryland man also repeated his appeal to President Barack Obama to take a direct role in securing his freedom.

Gross, now 64, traveled to Cuba on behalf of a Maryland company that won a contract from the U.S. Agency for International Development to expand Internet access and the flow of information on the Communist-ruled island.

Cuban authorities arrested him in 2009 in possesion of communications equipment.

Havana said he was illegally aiding dissidents and inciting subversion and in an August 2012 ruling, Cuba's highest court upheld the 15-year jail sentence imposed on the American.

Gross's attorney, Scott Gilbert, also said that USAID put the contractor's life in danger by launching ZunZuneo, a social network styled as the "Cuban Twitter," which was active between 2010-2012 and whose existence was revealed last week by a U.S. news agency.

"USAID has made one absurdly bad decision after another. Running this program (ZunZuneo) is contrary to everything we have been told by high-level representatives of the Obama administration about USAID's activities in Cuba," the lawyer said.

Gross has lost more than 49 kilos (110 pounds), is confined to a small cell with another two prisoners for 23 hours a day and forced to live with the lights always on, Gilbert said.

Cuba has hinted that it would release Gross in exchange for the return of the three of the "Cuban Five" intelligence agents who remain jailed in the United States.

Washington has dismissed talk of a possible swap, demanding that Cuba release Gross unconditionally.