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Jailed contractor's wife 'heartbroken' over Cuban decision

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 2:43 PM EST, Sat December 24, 2011
Alan Gross is seen with his wife, Judy, in this undated family photo.
Alan Gross is seen with his wife, Judy, in this undated family photo.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The State Department says it is "deeply disappointed"
  • Alan Gross has been imprisoned in Cuba for two years
  • Raul Castro announced that 2,900 prisoners would be released
  • Gross was not among them

(CNN) -- The wife of a U.S. subcontractor jailed in Cuba said Saturday she is devastated that Cuba is not including her husband among the nearly 3,000 prisoners being released on humanitarian grounds.

Cuban leader Raul Castro on Friday announced that 2,900 prisoners would be freed, but American Alan Gross was not among them, according to the Cuban Interests Section in Washington.

"To receive news in the middle of Hanukkah that the Cuban authorities have once again overlooked an opportunity to release Alan on humanitarian grounds is devastating. Our family is simply heartbroken," Judy Gross said in a statement.

The decision to release the prisoners follows "numerous requests" from their family members and religious institutions, and is a humanitarian gesture, Castro said.

The U.S. State Department also expressed displeasure with the decision Saturday.

If indeed Gross will not be released, "we are deeply disappointed and deplore the fact ... especially in light of his deteriorating health," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

The United States continues to call for his release, he said.

Among those to be freed are prisoners over the age of 60, along with those who are sick, female or young with no previous criminal record. With some exceptions, prisoners convicted of spying, terrorism, murder and drug trafficking are not being released.

Gross was jailed in December 2009, when he was working as a subcontractor on a U.S. Agency for International Development project aimed at spreading democracy. Castro has accused him of importing satellite equipment to connect dissidents to the Internet, and this year Cuba's highest court upheld the 15-year sentence imposed on Gross for committing crimes against the security of the state.

He has maintained his innocence and said he was trying to help connect Cuba's Jewish community to the Internet.

"Alan is 62 years old, has lost 100 pounds in captivity, is increasingly mentally weak and depressed, and is losing all hope that he will ever see his mother again," Judy Gross said. "I again call on President Raul Castro to show compassion for our family's plight and release Alan during this important holiday for Jews around the world."

CNN's Dana Ford contributed to this report.

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