The wife of jailed American contractor Alan Gross said she was “simply heartbroken” that the Cuban government refused to release him along with nearly 3,000 prisoners being freed in an amnesty.
“To receive news in the middle of Hanukkah that the Cuban authorities have once again overlooked an opportunity to release Alan on humanitarian grounds is devastating. Our family is simply heartbroken,” Judy Gross said in a statement, CNN reported.
The decision to release the other prisoners follows “numerous requests” from their family members and religious institutions, and is a humanitarian gesture, Castro said.
The U.S. State Department also expressed displeasure with the decision not to include Gross in the amnesty.
“We are deeply disappointed and deplore the fact … especially in light of his deteriorating health,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told CNN.
The island nation’s supreme governing body pardoned the prisoners, including some convicted of political crimes and many who are elderly or ill, the Guardian reported.
President Raul Castro cited an upcoming visit by Pope Benedict among the reasons for the amnesty, the paper said.
Prisoners convicted of serious crimes like murder, espionage or drug trafficking will not be part of the amnesty, the report said.
“Some people condemned for crimes against state security will be freed,” read an official government missive cited by news agency Prensa Latina. “All of them have completed an important portion of their sentence and shown good behavior.”
Gross, who was working on a USAID program when he was arrested, has been in jail for two years.
His supporters had focused on quiet diplomacy but have recently shifted to a more active campaign. His wife, Judy, recently pleaded with Jewish leaders at the JFNA general assembly convention to push harder for his freedom.