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Trial Begins for US Contractor in Cuba


Unidentified people enter the municipal court for the trial of US citizen Alan Gross, charged with espionage, on March 4, 2011 in Havana

Unidentified people enter the municipal court for the trial of US citizen Alan Gross, charged with espionage, on March 4, 2011 in Havana

A U.S. government contractor who has been held for more than one year in a Cuban jail was set to go on trial Friday.

Cuban authorities accuse Alan Gross of violating the "integrity and independence" of Cuba. They accuse him of bringing satellite communications equipment into the country to supply Cuban dissident groups. He could face 20 years in prison if convicted.

The United States has repeatedly called for his release.

Gross was working for a private company contracted by the U.S. Agency for International Development when he was arrested more than one year ago. U.S. officials say he was bringing the communications equipment to members of Cuba's small Jewish community.

The trial is expected to last only a day or two and is closed to the media.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters Thursday the United States hopes the situation will be resolved and that Gross can return home. He said Gross "has been in prison way too long."

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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