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Contractor Can’t Sue USA for Cuban Jailing

(CN) - A USAID contractor who worked to increase Internet access in Cuba cannot sue the U.S. government for his arrest and 15-year sentence for subversion in Cuba, the D.C. Circuit ruled.

Alan Gross worked for private consulting firm Development Alternatives (DAI), which contracts with the U.S. Agency for International Development to promote anti-Communist efforts in Cuba.

Gross's work involved training the Jewish community in Cuba to use and maintain wireless technology, mobile phones and computers.

Such activity is illegal in Cuba, as the Internet is highly regulated; many websites are restricted, and visitors are not allowed to carry wireless devices.

During his fifth trip to Cuba in 2009, Gross was arrested. He was convicted in 2011 of participating in "a subversive project of the U.S. government that aimed to destroy the Revolution through the use of communications systems out of the control of [Cuban] authorities."

Gross was sentenced to 15 years in prison, and has threatened to kill himself if he is not released next year.

Gross and his wife Judith sued DAI and the U.S. government in 2012, seeking $60 million for economic losses, and physical and emotional harm.

The Grosses settled with DAI, but the D.C. Circuit on Friday affirmed the dismissal of their claims against the United States, because Gross was injured in Cuba, not the United States.

"The Grosses insist that to cloak the United States in immunity when 'it sends a U.S. citizen into a foreign country to accomplish U.S. government objectives in what the United States knows to be a dangerous fashion, and that citizen suffers at least some injury in the United States as a result,' would create a 'sweeping new 'government operations' exception,'" Judge Judith Rogers wrote for the three-judge panel. "This view is foreclosed by the plain text of the foreign country exception and cases interpreting it."

Supreme Court precedent bars claims based on an injury that occurred in a foreign country, "regardless of where the tortious act or omission occurred," according to the 11-page opinion.

The Grosses' concern that the Federal Tort Claims Act creates an inequality by leaving people sent by the U.S. to a foreign country without redress for their injuries "is better directed to Congress," the court said.

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