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‘Crimes against the state’: Cuba jails man over communications equipment

In Washington, Judy Gross stood outside Cuba’s diplomatic mission to the United States on Monday, microphone in hand, leading a demonstration to protest her husband’s imprisonment in Cuba.

In March, Maryland resident Alan Gross was sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison for “crimes against the state.”

Around 2009, Mr. Gross, 62, made several trips to Cuba, taking cellphones, laptop computers and satellite communications equipment. The international development veteran was working with a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, on a U.S. government program aimed at improving Internet access for ordinary Cubans, according to The Baltimore Sun.

(The communist nation currently censors Internet access for civilians, a consistent policy of most repressive states.)

President Barack Obama has called for Mr. Gross’ release, and former President Jimmy Carter and others have appealed directly to Cuban officials during visits to the island.

Because the efforts of U.S. officials so far have failed, family and friends now are taking Mr. Gross’ case to the public.

On the eve of the second anniversary of his arrest, Mrs. Gross, his wife of 41 years, is giving interviews. Washington-area Jewish leaders have launched a weekly vigil outside the Cuban mission. Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin are circulating letters in Congress.

Observers have speculated Mr. Gross is being used as a bargaining chip by Cuba, which wants the United States to release a handful of jailed Cuban operatives.

That may be, but Alan Gross is not the only prisoner of conscience rotting away in a Cuban cell. Many Cuban natives have been locked away for years or decades for making political statements no more radical than those that are coin of the realm on the typical American talk radio show.

Meantime, let’s not lose sight of the ball: “Normalizing” relations with such repressive regimes should have the goal of restoring the liberties of their citizens and visitors alike. Under no circumstances should such slave states be granted the benefit of commerce and restored esteem from the free world, while still operating political gulags for people who commit such “crimes” as freely accessing the Internet.

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