A lawyer for an American who has spent more than four years imprisoned in Cuba said Monday that his client cannot take life in prison much longer and has said his goodbyes to his wife and a daughter.
Also, 300 U.S. rabbis have asked President Obama to help release the American, who is Jewish.
Alan Gross was arrested in Cuba in 2009 while working covertly in the Communist-run country to set up Internet access. His attorney, Scott Gilbert, said in a statement Monday that his client "has withdrawn" and told him "life in prison is not a life worth living." Gross has previously said through his lawyer that his 65th birthday, which took place in May, would be the last one that he "celebrates in Havana, one way or the other."
Gross said goodbye to his wife and youngest daughter during a recent visit. Gross, who lived in Maryland before his arrest, had previously told his two daughters not to come see him in prison.
Gross has stopped exercising and his health is not good, said Gilbert, who plans to visit his client this week. His hips are failing and he has lost most of the vision in his right eye. Gross' "emotional deterioration has been severe," Gilbert said, particularly following the death in June of his 92-year-old mother.
Gross and his mother talked frequently by phone, and when Gross went on a nine-day hunger strike in April it was his mother who persuaded him to end it. Gross had asked the Cuban government to be able to return to the United States for her funeral, but the request was denied.
Gross' wife, Judy Gross, said in Monday's statement that she has never seen her husband in such bad shape during the time he has spent in prison. She wrote that "his decision to say goodbye to us was wrenching."
Three hundred rabbis urged Obama to "take action" to secure Gross' release.
"Alan went to Cuba on behalf of our government. His immediate release from prison in Cuba and return to the U.S. must be a priority for our nation. Indeed, we believe this is a moral imperative," the rabbis wrote in a letter dated Friday and released to the media by Gross' lawyer on Monday.
Last year a bipartisan group of 66 U.S. senators sent a similar letter to Obama, but little apparent progress has been made toward Gross' release.
Cuba has called for a swap of Gross for three of its spies serving long prison terms in the United States, an idea the Americans have rejected. The United States has repeatedly demanded Gross' release, though formal talks on the issue have never taken place.
."Our communities are gravely concerned that Alan continues to languish in a Cuban prison nearly five years after his arrest," the rabbis wrote to Obama. "We ask, with all respect, that you take whatever steps are necessary to ensure a prompt end to Alan's, and his family's, continuing nightmare."
Gross also is refusing to see officials from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, which Washington maintains instead of an embassy since the two countries do not have formal diplomatic relations.
At the time Gross was arrested he was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. government's U.S. Agency for International Development, which promotes democracy on the island. Cuba considers USAID's programs illegal attempts by the U.S. to undermine its government, and Gross was tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
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