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American held in Cuba released after 5 years

Dec 17, 2014

This post is in partnership with Time. The article below was originally published at Time.com.

By Zeke J Miller, TIME

The Cuban government released an American imprisoned for more than five years Wednesday, setting the stage for renewed efforts to repair the long-fraught relationship between the two countries.

The 65-year old American, Alan Gross, departed Cuba Wednesday morning on a U.S. government plane, a senior Obama Administration official confirmed. “Mr. Gross was released on humanitarian grounds by the Cuban government at the request of the United States,” the official said.

A Cuban court convicted Gross of espionage in 2011 and sentenced him to 15 years in prison for carrying communications devices into Cuba while working as as a subcontractor for United State Agency for International Development setting up Internet access in local communities. According to his attorney, Gross had been in deteriorating health while in prison.

The White House said President Barack Obama would address the nation shortly after noon on Wednesday to mark Gross’ release. The terms of Gross’ release were not immediately clear Wednesday morning.

In a statement marking the five-year anniversary of Gross’ arrest, Obama said that if the Castro-led Cuban government released him it would set the stage for other reconciliation efforts.

“The Cuban Government’s release of Alan on humanitarian grounds would remove an impediment to more constructive relations between the United States and Cuba,” Obama said.

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