Gross freed in double miracle for Chanucah


Jewish American citizen Alan Gross was freed by Cuba this week in what was seen as the first step in a thawing of relations between the former Cold War enemies.

Mr Gross, 65, was released from his five-year ordeal after the US agreed to free three Cubans who had been jailed in Florida for spying.

Mr Gross was detained in December 2009 while working as a subcontractor for the US government's Agency for International Development to provide the local Jewish community with internet access.

As part of Mr Gross's work, he imported satellite equipment that was deemed illegal. The Cuban authorities said his activities were an attempt at a regime change, and sentenced him to 15 years for committing "acts against the integrity of the state".

Last week, President Barack Obama said the US had been "in conversations" with Cuba about Mr Gross for some time.

Obama administration officials have long considered Mr Gross's imprisonment an impediment to improved relations with Cuba.

After the release of Mr Gross, Mr Obama announced plans to normalise diplomatic and economic ties with Cuba, hailing a "new chapter". In a TV address, Cuban President Raul Castro welcomed the move.

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