US contractor sues employer for $60m over Cuban arrest

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A United States contractor jailed in Cuba after being convicted of crimes against the state is suing for US$60 million, blaming the company for his imprisonment and not warning him about the risks he faced in the communist-run island.

Alan Gross, 63, has been jailed in Cuba since December 3, 2009, and is serving a 15-year sentence for providing Internet gear to Cubans under a US program that the Cuban government viewed as subversive.

Gross alleges that his employer, Maryland-based Development Alternatives  (DAI) and the US government failed to adequately disclose the material risks that he faced due to his participation in the project.

Gross was working in Cuba for a US funded program to promote political change by increasing Internet access and the flow of communications. Cuba views such programs as part of long-standing US attempts to topple the island's communist government.

USAID said that Gross' job was "simply facilitating Internet connectivity to the Cuban people so they could communicate with the rest of the world."

Cuba says Gross tried to keep his work undercover and was aware of its political aims, according to a leaked court document.

The court said it found evidence on flash drives and a computer confiscated during his arrest that Gross knew more than he admitted and took action to avoid detection, including using American tourists to bring Internet equipment to Cuba without telling them what it was for.

The gear included three satellite internet terminals, or BGANs, along with BlackBerry phones, iPods and other electronics.

Information is tightly controlled on the Caribbean island, internet use is limited and visitors are not allowed to carry satellite technology.

During his trial, Gross said: "I did nothing in Cuba that is not done on a daily basis in millions of homes and offices around the world... I am deeply sorry for being a trusting fool. I was duped, I was used."

He claims he was not trained or protected for his trips and said the company ignored his repeated security concerns.

The suit specifically states that his employers failed to warn Gross about the "the techniques used by Cuban government intelligence," and "failed to conduct counterintelligence training for Mr Gross."

The suit also accuses USAID of failing to follow "mandatory, internal directives" governing foreign travel "in connection with such projects, particularly to hostile countries like Cuba."

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