By PAUL HAVEN The Associated Press
Feb. 24, 2011, 11:21AM
HAVANA — An American contractor jailed since December 2009 on suspicion of spying will go on trial in Cuba on March 4, U.S. diplomats said Thursday, in a case sure to have profound ramifications for relations between the two Cold War enemies.
Cuban prosecutors are seeking a 20-year prison term for Alan Gross, a 61-year-old native of Potomac, Maryland, who was working for a firm contracted by the U.S. Agency for International Development when he was arrested and sent to Havana's high-security Villa Marista prison.
The U.S. government and Gross' family say he was distributing communications equipment to the island's Jewish community when he was arrested. Cuba says he was part of a multimillion-dollar plan to destabilize the government, and charged him with "acts against the integrity and independence" of the country.
Cuban officials informed the U.S. State Department of the trial date on Wednesday, Molly Koscina, a spokeswoman for America's diplomatic mission in Havana, told The Associated Press. She added that Gross has also been notified that a trial date has been set.
"The Office of Cuban Affairs in Washington DC was informed yesterday," Koscina said. "The Cuban government has said that the family can travel and that US officials can attend."
Koscina had no information on where the trial will be held. News that a date would be set for Gross's trial came first in a Twitter posting sent from State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, though he did not state the date.
The Cuban government had no immediate reaction, and Cuban state-run media has not reported word of the trial date.