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Trial of US Contractor Resumes in Cuba

Surrounded by security forces, US government contractor Alan Gross, left, arrives to a courthouse to attend a trial in Havana, Cuba, March 5, 2011

The American contractor accused in Cuba of supplying dissidents with communications equipment could be facing a verdict on day two of his trial.

An official statement said lawyers would give evidence and closing remarks Saturday in the case against Alan Gross. Under Cuban law, judges can give verdicts immediately following the presentation of evidence.

Gross was arrested in Cuba in December 2009. He is alleged to have violated the "integrity and independence of Cuba" by distributing Internet equipment and satellite phones to Cuban dissident groups. He could face 20 years in prison if convicted.

Gross's wife and U.S. officials were present in the court. However, the trial is closed to the media. Gross's American lawyer said the contractor and his Cuban attorneys presented a vigorous defense during the first day of the hearing Friday, and urged Cuba to release the ailing 61-year-old on humanitarian grounds.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Friday appealed to Cuba to release Gross "unconditionally" and allow him to return to his family.

Gross was working for a private firm, Development Alternatives International, contracted by the U.S. Agency for International Development, when he was arrested.

The company says Gross was working on a project to bring Internet communications equipment to members of Cuba's small Jewish community, and denies he was working with dissidents. The firm has since ceased its activities in Cuba.

The United States has repeatedly called for his release and says he was not doing anything illegal.

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