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Cuba: Gross not among the 2,900 prisoners pardoned
Cuban vice minister: American Alan Gross is not among the 2,900 prisoners granted amnesty
By The Associated Press

HAVANA (AP) ' Cuba's vice foreign minister says American Alan Gross is not among nearly 3,000 prisoners granted amnesty.

Josefina Vidal tells The Associated Press that "Alan Gross is not on the list."

President Raul Castro announced on Friday that his country would pardon 2,900 prisoners, including some convicted of political crimes. Castro cited an upcoming visit by Pope Benedict XVI among the reasons for the amnesty, saying the humanitarian act showed Cuba's strength. He said 86 foreign prisoners from 25 countries were on the list of those who would be freed, and that diplomats would be notified shortly.



THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

HAVANA (AP) ' Cuba's supreme governing body on Friday pardoned nearly 3,000 prisoners, including some convicted of political crimes, though no mention was made of a jailed American whose case has become a sticking point between Havana and Washington.

The Council of State agreed to release 2,900 prisoners, among them inmates who are more than 60 years old or are ailing, women and young people who don't have long criminal records, the island's Prensa Latina news agency reported Friday.

It said those convicted of serious crimes like murder, espionage or drug trafficking would not be part of the amnesty, though it added that some people convicted of political crimes were on the release list.

"Some people condemned for crimes against state security will be freed," read an official government communique cited by Prensa Latina. "All of them have completed an important portion of their sentence and shown good behavior."

No mention was made of Alan Gross, a 62-year-old American government subcontractor arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in jail for crimes against the state. That case has frozen already icy relations between Washington and Havana.

Gross's family concedes he was on a USAID funded democracy building program, but insist his goal was simply to help the island's tiny Jewish community gain better access to the Internet. Cuba says the programs seek to overthrow the government.

Gross's supporters have appealed to Cuban President Raul Castro for a humanitarian release. They say Gross ' who was obese when he was arrested ' has lost more than 100 pounds in jail and is now gaunt and increasingly depressed. Meanwhile, his daughter and elderly mother have both been diagnosed with cancer.

Cuba this year freed the last of some 75 political prisoners arrested in a notorious 2003 sweep. While others remain jailed for politically motivated crimes, most of those were involved in acts of violence like hijacking.

Rights group Amnesty International no longer includes any Cuban prisoners among its list of "prisoners of conscience" around the world.

No details on when the releases will occur were given.

___

Paul Haven can be reached at www.twitter.com/paulhaven/


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