Gross, 65, was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Cuba when he was accused by country of being a spy for the U.S. In 2011, he was convicted in a Cuban court of espionage and sentenced to 15 years in prison. According to ABC News, Gross' condition has deteriorated in containment:
Following a recent visit, Gross' attorney described him as nearly toothless, barely able to walk because of arthritis in his hips and blind in one eye. He has been kept in a small room at a military hospital 24 hours a day with two other Cuban political prisoners.
Gross has refused medical and dental care or outside privileges, and declined visits and food from the U.S. Interest section in Havana. He had promised a hunger strike leading to death if not released by the end of this year.
White House officials claimed Gross' release was made on "humanitarian grounds." Gross boarded a plane bound for the United States this morning. Obama and Cuban president Raul Castro are expected to hold separate press conferences later today.
Update, 10 a.m.: Sources tell the Associated Press that today's release of Gross leads plans for the U.S. to "normalize full diplomatic relations " with Cuba. An American embassy is also planned to open in Havana "in the coming months."
[Image via AP]