U.N. watchdog calls on Cuba to free Gross

The United Nations Human Rights Council’s imprisonment watchdog called on Cuba to release jailed Jewish American contractor Alan Gross.

The council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said in an opinion released Jan. 8 to Gross’ lawyer that Cuba’s lack of an independent judiciary, the imprecise nature of the alleged crime and the failure to grant bail to Gross rendered his 15-year sentence “arbitrary.”

The opinion does not consider the charges against Gross, who delivered computer and Internet equipment to the island’s tiny Jewish community, saying they are out of its purview. The opinion also rejects complaints by Gross’ lawyer that Gross was denied due process and that the charges violate speech freedoms.

However, it notes from its previous considerations of Cuban cases that the country’s judicial system serves at the whim of the country’s one-party system.

It also says the vagueness of the section of the criminal code under which Gross was convicted “does not satisfy the requirement of a rigorous description of punishable conduct.” The opinion also faults the courts for not releasing Gross on bail for

14 months.

“By virtue of what has been set out, the Working Group asks the Government of Cuba to immediately release Mr. Alan Phillip Gross,” the 12-page opinion concludes.

The working group is made up of experts from Chile, Norway, Pakistan, Senegal and Ukraine.

Cuba rejected the imprisonment watchdog’s opinion and said its judiciary functions independently within a socialist system. — jta