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Forward 50 2012

Judy Gross

After a period of relative restraint, Judy Gross this year dramatically ramped up the campaign to liberate her husband from a Cuban jail. With the help of a top Washington PR firm, Burson-Marsteller, and subsequently a specialist human rights firm Perseus Strategies, Gross, 63, began to use the American media to call on the Cuban government to release her husband, Alan, on humanitarian grounds. She also badgered the State Department, describing her husband as “a pawn from a failed policy” between Cuba and the U.S.

Alan Gross was sentenced to 15 years in jail, in 2009, after being convicted of trying to subvert the Cuban government while working as a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development.

He had made several trips to the island carrying communications equipment ostensibly aimed at improving internet connections for the island’s tiny Jewish community. However, the Associated Press reported in February that the equipment included high-tech items commonly used by the Department of Defense and that Gross was aware of the risks he was taking.

Initially, Judy put her faith in behind-the-scenes diplomacy to win her husband’s release. But when that failed, and as Alan’s health deteriorated — he has lost more than 100 pounds in jail — she pushed her husband’s case into the spotlight and has managed to keep it there ever since.

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