HAVANA — A Cuban court on Saturday found U.S. contractor Alan Gross guilty of crimes against the state and sentenced him to 15 years in prison, a verdict that brought a swift and strongly worded condemnation from Washington.
The court said prosecutors had proved that Gross, 61, was working on a "subversive" program paid for by the United States that aimed to bring down Cuba's revolutionary system. Prosecutors had sought a 20-year jail term.
Gloria Berbena, a spokeswoman for the U.S. diplomatic mission on the island, termed the decision "appalling" and called on Cuba to immediately release Gross, a Maryland native.
Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the White House's National Security Council, said, "We urge the immediate release of Mr. Gross so that he can return home to his wife and family."
Gross was arrested in December 2009 while on a project backed by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The U.S. government and Gross' family say he was working to improve Internet access for the island's Jewish community and did nothing wrong.
Cuban officials have called him a mercenary. The court said the program that Gross worked on — part of a $20 million Washington effort to support democracy — showed that the U.S. government continues to seek the overthrow of the Cuban government.