President Obama personally lobbied foreign leaders and other "international figures" in an effort to free an American man who has been jailed for four years in Cuba, the White House said Tuesday.
Alan Gross, a USAID worker, was jailed when it was discovered he helped to set up Internet access for a small Jewish community in the communist nation. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the administration is committed to securing Gross's release.
"The State Department has kept Mr. Gross’ case at the forefront of discussions with the Cuban government and made clear the importance the United States places on his welfare," Carney said. "They have also engaged a wide range of foreign counterparts, and urged them to advocate for Mr. Gross’ release."
In a letter released by his spokeswoman, Gross asked Obama to personally intervene on the fourth anniversary of his incarceration.
"It is clear to me, Mr. President, that only with your personal involvement can my release be secured," Gross wrote. "I know that your administration and prior administrations have taken extraordinary steps to obtain the release of other U.S. citizens imprisoned abroad — even citizens who were not arrested for their work on behalf of their country. I ask that you also take action to secure my release, for my sake and for the sake of my family."
Gross goes on to say that he feared his government "has abandoned me."
"Officials in your administration have expressed sympathy and called for my unconditional release, and I very much appreciate that. But it has not brought me home," he wrote.
Carney said he didn't know if Obama had seen the letter.