Cuban authorities have not spoken publicly about their case against Mr. Gross. But a video that surfaced days before the charges were announced indicates prosecutors will likely argue that the USAID programs amount to an attack on the island’s sovereignty.
Judy Gross has appealed to Cuba to release her husband on humanitarian grounds, noting that the couple’s 26-year-old daughter Shira is suffering from cancer and that Mr. Gross’s elderly mother is also very ill.
On a blog she started to track her cancer treatment, Shira Gross asks followers to keep her father in their thoughts.
“G-d listens to our prayers, so please pray for his release,” she wrote in an entry posted Thursday.
Many observers do see a way forward that would get Mr. Gross back to his family, and avoid a standoff between Havana and Washington.
As recently as January, a senior State Department official said she had been given signals by the Cuban government that Mr. Gross would be sent home soon following a trial. American officials were taken aback when — a few weeks later — prosecutors said they were seeking a 20-year jail term.
Phil Peters, a longtime Cuba expert who is vice president of the Arlington, Va.-based Lexington Institute, said he saw Cuba freeing Mr. Gross soon, despite the fact prosecutors are seeking such a stiff sentence.
“The odds are the guy is going to get convicted, that’s not hard to predict,” he said. “But I don’t believe that the Cuban government has an interest in holding him in jail for the long term.”
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