Cuba Jails US Contractor for 15 Years while Pakistan Govt delays action against CIA Operative.
Alan Gross has been found guilty of crimes against the state and sentenced to 15 years in prison
A Cuban court has found U.S. contractor Alan Gross guilty of crimes against the state and sentenced him to 15 years in prison, a verdict that is sure to have sweeping repercussions for already-sour relations between Washington and Havana.
The court said prosecutors had proved their case that Gross, 61, was working on a “subversive” program paid for by the United States that aimed to bring down Cuba’s revolutionary system. Prosecutors had sought a 20-year sentence.
The U.S. government and Gross’s family say he was working to improve internet access for the island’s Jewish community, and should be released.
Cuban officials have called him a mercenary and maintained his motives were more nefarious.
The court said the program that Gross worked on – part of a $20 million Washington effort to support democracy on the island – showed that the U.S. government continues to seek the government’s overthrow.
Gross’s backers will try to get him released through a court action or executive pardon, possibly on humanitarian grounds. His wife Judy says Gross has lost more than 90 pounds since his arrest, and that his 26-year-old daughter and 88-year-old mother are both suffering from cancer.
There was no immediate reaction to the verdict from Washington, or Gross’s family. On a similar note – Pakistan’s US-backed PPP Government is expected to ask the Lahore High Court for more time, to try and keep the option of an ‘out of court’ settlement open, even if the court pressed its representative to certify on CIA operative Raymond Davis’s status.
Davis was arrested in Pakistan in January this year after shooting dead two Pakistani citizens in broad daylight. Subsequent investigations have unearthed a clandestine CIA programme in Pakistan assisting anti-state militants and conspiring to assassinate Hafiz Saeed, the head of Pakistani charity ‘Jama’at-ud-Dawa’, whom the US and India accuse of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attaks.
The PPP government kept its cards close to its chest on Saturday, the last working day before it is to testify in the Lahore High Court (LHC) on jailed CIA operative Raymond Davis’s diplomatic status. Indications of the possibility of the government sticking to its time buying tactics were, nevertheless, quite evident.
None of the government spokespersons was ready to say anything on the strategy in the Davis case. Instead they suggested waiting till Monday.
On Monday the LHC will resume its hearing on petitions against possible handover of Davis to the US authorities after a break of three weeks sought by the government to file a reply. This was the second adjournment granted by the court to the government for preparing its response, which essentially pertains to his diplomatic status and immunity.
But, well placed sources indicated that the government would seek to buy more time to keep the option of an ‘out of court’ settlement open, even if the court pressed its representative to certify on Davis’s status.
At best the government’s counsel could furnish some basic facts about Davis — a January 2010 notification issued by the US embassy about his appointment, his diplomatic passport and a pending request for registration with the Foreign Office. But the counsel is likely to stop short of unequivocally stating whether or not the murder accused enjoyed diplomatic status.
An official requesting anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue disclosed that none of the replies to four queries to be presented to the LHC addressedthe question of immunity — clearly suggesting that the dispute that has been ominously threatening Pakistan-US strategic relationship would continue to linger.
Legal experts say the question before the court would be as to which document — the embassy’s appointment notification or registration with the Foreign Office — formed the basis for diplomatic status and associated privileges and immunities.
Officials in private conversations said the Foreign Office’s Blue Book (protocol manual) was very clear that only the registration card issued to a diplomat after his/her registration with the Foreign Office confirmed anyone’s diplomatic status — something Davis was yet to get even though his request had been pending for over a year.
The government was expected to tell the court that the issue was very complicated and had to be looked at from all aspects, including international law, international practice, local laws and American laws.
“We have to take into consideration all of these laws and practices.
Therefore, we are not in a position to give a blanket response,” an official said.
The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 has no requirement for a diplomat to register in the host country for getting immunity and other privileges. Accordingly, most countries do not have a registration requirement for foreign diplomats, but it is a legal requirement in Pakistan.