By Justin Sink - 04/23/14 02:59 PM EDT
The attorney for a USAID worker jailed in Cuba plead with President Obama to "sit down with the Cuban government" and try to strike a deal for his release in an interview Wednesday with MSNBC.
“Our message, really, is to the president of the United States," Gilbert said. "And it is President Obama, please engage on this issue. We understand the world's a complicated place. We understand the world will not become less complicated, but please engage on this issue. Sit down with the Cuban government. Try to reach a resolution."
Gross was jailed more than four years ago when it was discovered he helped to set up Internet access for a small Jewish community on the communist nation. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Gilbert, who visited Cuba recently to meet with Gross and Cuban officials, warned the former government employee was "not doing well" and said he had lost 12 pounds in a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment.
"He told me yesterday emphatically that May 2, which marks his 65th birthday, will be the last birthday that he marks in Cuba, one way or the other," Gilbert said.
Last December, the White House said Obama had personally lobbied foreign leaders and other "international figures" to help convince the Castro regime to free Gross.
"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," White House press secretary Jay Carney said. "They have also engaged a wide range of foreign counterparts, and urged them to advocate for Mr. Gross' release."
But Gilbert said he had not received "any response" from the Obama administration.
"The Cubans want to sit down with the United States and reach a negotiated resolution," Gilbert said. "We have asked the president to engage and to have the administration participate in such a negotiation. And we believe that the administration should do whatever it takes to free Alan, who was in Cuba in the first place on U.S. government business."