Friday, March 4, 2011

Alan Gross' day in court (Updated)

Alan Gross goes on trial in Cuba today, where my guess is that he will get a long sentence and my hope is that he will not have to serve it.

If you’re rooting for Mr. Gross, hope that the Cuban government’s interest is in opposing USAID’s pseudo-covert operations, not in holding an apparently hapless businessman who participated in them and has already served 14 months and suffered much anguish.

AP reports that the trial is under way with Mr. Gross’ wife, his American attorney, and U.S. consular officials in attendance and reporters kept outside.

American Jewish organizations that appealed on his behalf say that if his work “had any political implications this was something he did not, or could not, appreciate.” That would seem to be an indictment of USAID and his employer, the contractor DAI, for failing to warn him, not to mention of Mr. Gross himself for not noticing that the program under which he worked and the law that funds it are as political as can be.

My first post on this issue is here, my article on his case and USAID’s programs in Foreign Policy magazine is here, and a post that examines his predicament is here.

A commenter asked: Under what law are Cuban prosecutors charging Mr. Gross? I don’t know the answer to that, and I don’t know that it has been published. My impression is that the Cuban press announcement’s reference to “Actions Against the Independence and Territorial Integrity of the State” is a reference to a category of laws, not to a specific charge. I’m told that a prosecutor’s charging document will contain a list of alleged acts with each one linked to laws that the defendant is alleged to have violated. (See update below.)

Several readers have commented on the MININT video’s assertion that the equipment that Alan Gross was installing in Cuba had a one-kilometer radius. The equipment, called “BGANS” (broadband global area network), provides a satellite link to the Internet with a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Some readers have used the equipment in their work and state quite clearly that the MININT video exaggerates the BGANS capabilities. It does indeed have Wi-Fi, they say, but the connection speed slows considerably each time an additional user connects. And its range is like the Wi-Fi in your house, no more. And the dish has to be outside. So the idea that a BGANS is going to light up a Havana neighborhood with free Internet is outlandish, they assert.

One reader writes that airtime costs $10-$16 per minute, depending on the connection speed you choose. Someday it will be interesting to know how many Internet connections Mr. Gross set up before they were presumably closed down by state security. With his contract cost ($585,000, according to U.S. officials) plus the overhead costs of his employer, plus airtime charges, we’re talking about the most expensive Internet connections in history.

This terrific new blog by Professor Larry Press, added to the blogroll, goes into the BGANS issue in some detail in this post.

Update: From a reader: “The case is based on Article 91 of the penal code, which is called ‘Acts against the independence or territorial integrity of the state.’ Thus it appears in the February 4 announcement. That crime carries a penalty of ten to twenty years in jail or death and is under the chapter ‘Crimes against the external security of the state.’ The penal code says that this crime is commited by whoever ‘in the interest of a foreign state commits an act detrimental to the independence of the Cuban state or the integrity of its territory.’ This was one of the charges against the dissidents tried in 2003. The other was Law 88.”


Anonymous said...

Isn't it illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba under a tourist visa? Assume he didn't get a license, wasn't fully hosted by Cuba. He came under a tourist visa. So I guess he broke US law as well.

tredway said...

I think Phil's word 'hapless' best describes this situation and we can hope that Cuban authorities see it the same way: this guy was clueless in hoping that he could connect with the Jewish community in Havana while ignoring the legitimate concerns of a country with a history of invasion reality and threats.
For Cuba, the important thing right now is to show compassion to the international community. For the United States, it needs to continue to restrain its rhetoric while seeking ways to promote its interests in a respectful and mutually beneficial approach to new USA-CUBA relations.
This trial could be an opportunity for both countries to show the world a new maturity; based on respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, rule of law and a new partnership of hemispheric neighbors.
Already, the U.S. supplies almost 70% of food to Cuba, partners with Cuba on hurricanes and drug interdiction. This is something on which to build a better foundation.

brianmack said...

As always, excellent info Mr. Peters.
I do think this will all be resolved and the Cuban Connection/USA will
move "fast speed!"

Muchas Gracias said...

As I commented on Larry's blog, the idea of "connection speed" for someone who lives in Cuba is totally diferent from the idea anyone can have in US. The best connection you can currently get at home in Cuba (illegally by the way) is a dial up connection over 50-year old phone cables, which means you get 40kbps if you are lucky, pleople in Cuba even share this type of connection among a few computers.
A BGANS link shared with 10 computers will probably give you more bandwidth than what any cuban can have right now.
Wireless networks can be spreaded using several access points with antenas on top of high buildings. Since there is no internet in Cuba to play online games, teenagers have installed many of these networks all around Havana city. That was what the guy on the video was talking about. It is real, those networks are there, and as he stated they could be used to share an internet link if it is available.
I do not support his ideas, but he actually did not lie or exagerated anything, at least technologically speaking.

Anonymous said...

I was trying to access where you can get the most updated version of every piece of legislation in Cuba. Ley 62 Codigo Penal and Ley No.5 Ley de Procedimiento Penal can be found online but the site disappeared from the Internet and when you search in or is not indexed anymore, any news on what happened? is there any legal analysis on the Ross case done by any Cuban lawyer graduated in Cuba that you can point me to? Thanks,

Anonymous said...

I believe has been restricted to be available from inside Cuba only. I will try to confirm it later, but I was expecting them to do something like this anytime. The goverment knew it could be used against them.

Phil Peters said...

This works, just checked:

Anonymous said...

It wasnt avilable yesterday try google search dissapeared Some key components :
SECCIÓN DÉCIMA: La Expulsión de Extranjeros del Territorio Nacional
1. Al sancionar a un extranjero, el tribunal puede imponerle, como sanción accesoria, su expulsión del
territorio nacional si por la índole del delito, las circunstancias de su comisión o las características
personales del inculpado, se evidencia que su permanencia en la República es perjudicial.
2. La expulsión se cumple después de extinguida la sanción principal.

Anonymous said...

3. No obstante lo dispuesto en el apartado anterior el Consejo de Ministros puede decretar la
expulsión del extranjero antes de que éste cumpla la sanción principal impuesta, la que, en este caso,
se declarará extinguida de conformidad con lo establecido en el inciso j) del artículo 59.

SECCIÓN SEXTA: Las Circunstancias Atenuantes o Agravantes
ARTÍCULO 52. Son circunstancias atenuantes las siguientes:
c) haber cometido el delito en la creencia, aunque errónea, de que tenía derecho a realizar el hecho

Anonymous said... was not working during the whole weekend, I checked several times. Coincidence?