American contractor Alan Gross, center, poses with his wife, Judy, and his attorney, Scott Gilbert, during a visit in a Cuban prison last year. / Family Photo
MIAMI - An American contractor being held in a Cuban prison ended a hunger strike on Friday after his 92-year-old mother asked him to stop.
Alan Gross, who was arrested by Cuban authorities in 2009 for importing and distributing communication equipment to the Jewish community there, started his fast April 3 to protest his detention. Gross was upset with both the governments of Cuba and the United States for what he described as meager efforts to secure his release.
Gross estimates he had already lost over 110 pounds before starting his hunger strike. That's why his relatives asked him to stop his fast, which involved ingesting only water.
On Friday, he agreed.
"My protest fast is suspended as of today, although there will be further protests to come," he said in a statement dictated to his attorney, Scott Gilbert, on a phone call from his prison in Havana. "There will be no cause for further intense protest when both governments show more concern for human beings and less malice and derision toward each other."
Gross was working under a contract from the U.S. Agency for International Development when he was arrested by Cuban authorities. He was convicted in a Cuban court in 2011 and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Gross's case has become a central component in U.S.-Cuba relations. President Obama and other officials have called for his unconditional release, while Cuban officials say the United States should release five Cuban citizens who have been convicted on espionage charges.
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