Gitmo prisoner swap ‘a precedent’

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iol news pic TOR102_USA-AFGHANISTAN-BERGDAHL_0531_11 Reuters US Army Sergeant Bowe Berghdal is seen in this handout image. Picture: US Army, via Reuters

Havana - The exchange of five Taliban detainees at Guantanamo for a US Army soldier held captive in Afghanistan could set a precedent for a similar swap with Cuba, a Cuban intelligence agent who spent years imprisoned in the United States said Monday.

Fernando Gonzalez, who returned to the island in February after serving more than 15 years behind bars in the United States, said the deal to secure the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has a clear parallel to the cases of U.S. government subcontractor Alan Gross and three Cuban agents still imprisoned in the United States.

“It is obvious that the only thing needed is the will on the part of the U.S. government to bring about that swap or exchange,” Gonzalez said in his first news conference back in Havana. “This latest development makes that clear.”

Diplomats at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana had no immediate comment. In the past, U.S. officials have said they consider the cases of Gross and the agents to be separate.

Gross was arrested in Cuba in 2009 while working to set up hard-to-detect Internet networks for the island's tiny Jewish community as part of a U.S. government development contract. He says his actions posed no threat to the Cuban state. But Havana

considers such programs to be an affront to its sovereignty, and he was sentenced to 15 years.

Havana has said repeatedly it wants to sit down with Washington to negotiate the fate of Gross and the three members of the so-called Cuban Five who remain imprisoned in the United States. The agents were arrested in 1998 and convicted on charges including espionage, although Cuba argues that they were only keeping tabs on militant exile groups blamed for terror attacks on the island.

Bergdahl was freed over the weekend after five years in Taliban captivity, stirring debate in Washington over whether the exchange could put other Americans at greater risk of being taken as bargaining chips.

Sapa-AP


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