HAVANA - Alan Gross, a 65-year-old US foreign aid worker freed from a Cuban prison on Wednesday, was arrested in Cuba in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years for importing banned technology and trying to establish clandestine Internet service for Cuban Jews.
Here are some facts about Gross:
Gross was a longtime supporter of Jewish causes and a career development consultant who travelled the world on private contracts before taking his Cuba assignment. He had only once previously visited Cuba and spoke very limited Spanish.
Gross worked for Maryland-based Development Alternatives Inc (DAI), which had a $6 million deal with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to promote democracy and support political dissidents. Gross signed two contracts with DAI paying him a total of $590,000 to deliver telecommunications equipment over 20 months.
During five trips to Cuba in 2009, Gross imported banned satellite communications devices and other high-tech gear in his luggage and helped install it at Jewish centres in Havana, Santiago and Camaguey.
Cuban officials arrested him in his hotel room on Dec. 3, 2009, just before he had planned to return home.
Gross sued DAI and the US government for $60 million, saying he was inadequately informed of the dangers and illegality of his mission. He settled with DAI for an undisclosed sum and a judge threw out his suit against the United States, a decision upheld on appeal.
While incarcerated, Gross morphed from a gadget geek to an embittered critic of the US and Cuban governments. He lost 100 pounds (46 kg) from his original 254 pounds (115 kg). His spirits dimmed after his mother died of cancer in June, and he stopped seeing doctors, his wife, or officials of the US interests section shortly thereafter.