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Originally published Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 10:11 AM

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UN report calls on Cuba to release American

A United Nations group is calling on the Cuban government to release an American who has been held in the country for more than three years, saying his imprisonment is unfair.

Associated Press

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WASHINGTON —

A United Nations group is calling on the Cuban government to release an American who has been held in the country for more than three years, saying his imprisonment is unfair.

A 12-page report by the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was released Tuesday by a lawyer for the American, Alan Gross. The report is dated November 23 and had previously been released to the Cuban government. Cuba blasted the report's conclusion in early December, saying that the U.S. government had put pressure on the UN group and arguing Gross had been fairly tried. But Cuban officials did not release the report itself.

Gross was arrested in December 2009 while working on a project to set up wireless Internet connections for Cuba's Jewish community. He was working as a subcontractor for USAID, the US government agency in charge of foreign economic development. U.S. officials have portrayed the work as purely humanitarian.

But Gross was violating Cuban law by doing work for USAID in the country, since under Cuban law such activities must be authorized. Reports that Gross wrote on several trips to Cuba show he knew the work was risky. He was later sentenced to 15 years in prison, and the case has since become a major sticking point in talks between the United States and Cuba.

The working group - whose members include lawyers and professors from Senegal, Pakistan, Ukraine, Chile and Norway - has no enforcement powers, but the ruling could put pressure on the Cuban government to release Gross.

The report repeated criticisms of Cuba's judicial system, saying it is not impartial, and also criticized the offense Gross was charged with, committing crimes against the state, as imprecise and vague. The report also says the 63-year-old Maryland man should have been released on bail while awaiting trial instead of being held in a Cuban prison for more than a year.

In response, Gross' wife on Tuesday also sent a letter to Cuban President Raul Castro.

"Given this ruling, I would like to know why your Government is ignoring the declaration of the United Nations that his imprisonment to be wrongful and its request for Alan's immediate release?" she wrote.

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Follow Jessica Gresko at http://twitter.com/jessicagresko

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