- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 15, 2014

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he spent part of his visit at the Vatican asking for help in freeing an American contractor who has been held captive in Cuba for almost five years.

Alan Gross, 64, has been jailed in Cuba since 2009, on accusations that he smuggled satellite and telecommunications equipment to the island’s small Jewish community. Mr. Gross defended his actions by saying he was only trying to improve residents’ access to the Internet – not undermine the government.

But he was found guilty in March 2011 of crimes “against the independence and territorial integrity of the state,” NBC News reported. For that, he received 15 years in jail.

“I raised the issue of Alan Gross and his captivity and we hope very much that there might be able to be assistance with respect to that issue,” Mr. Kerry said, of his conversations with his Vatican counterpart, Secretary of State Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Reuters reported.

The Vatican maintains friendly relations with Cuba, and both Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul visited the country and met with top leaders.

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