Alan and Judy Gross
The Foreign Ministry statement marked an escalation in a dispute that has been simmering for 2 1/2 years and that has torpedoed any hope of improved ties between the Cold War enemies. Maryland-native Alan Gross is serving a 15-year term for bringing satellite and other communications equipment into Cuba illegally while on a USAID-funded democracy-building program.
Cuban officials disputed recent comments by Gross's lawyer and wife that his condition is deteriorating, saying his health is in fact "normal" and he is being properly treated.
It said he is well enough, in fact, to serve his sentence in a regular jail, in what appeared to be a thinly veiled warning.
"Even though Mr. Gross could be held at any prison facility due to the fact that his situation is not incompatible with that, he is being held at a military hospital," the statement said. "This is not because his health requires it, but to ensure for him the best conditions."