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American imprisoned in Cuba loses appeal to sue the gov't for destruction of his business

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WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court has ruled against a government subcontractor imprisoned in Cuba who is seeking to sue the U.S. government for the destruction of his business.

Alan Gross was detained in December 2009 while setting up Internet access as a subcontractor for the U.S. government's Agency for International Development. It was his fifth trip to Cuba to work with Jewish communities on building Internet access that bypassed local censorship.

Cuba considers USAID programs illegal attempts by the U.S. to undermine the Cuban government. Gross was tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison in Cuba, where he remains. Gross and his wife sued for negligence.

In a 3-0 decision Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the U.S. government is immune from any claim arising in a foreign country. It affirmed a lower court judge's dismissal of the case.

The Grosses said the government is cloaking itself in immunity after sending Gross into a situation it knew would be dangerous.

Scott Gilbet, a lawyer representing the Grosses, said he will be seeking further review in the courts and that "we are very disappointed in the decision."

The $60 million lawsuit blames the U.S. government and the contractor Gross was working for, Maryland-based Development Alternatives Inc., for failing to appropriately prepare him for his work in Cuba. The Gross family settled for an undisclosed amount with Development Alternatives.

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