Local March 15, 2016 | 1:37 pm

Dominican leader carried Obama’s message to spy jailed in Cuba, report

Santo Domingo.- Former Dominican Republic president LeonelFernandez served as messenger for US, to convey words of encouragement to AlanGross, then a political prisoner in Cuba, locan10.com reports Tuesday.

"I did have a visit from the former president of theDominican Republic, Leonel Fernandez, who told me that he came with a messagefrom president Obama saying that this whole thing was not about me, and I said,’Thank you very much. If it’s not about me (then) why am I here?," Gross wasquoted as saying.

Gross spoke to the media Tuesday morning about what heendured during his five-year detainment in Cuba and touched on his thoughts ofPresident Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to the island.

"On Dec 3, 2009, the night before I was supposed to gohome and have a nice dinner with my wife, I heard loud banging at my door — atmy hotel room door and that’s when I was arrested," Gross said. "Iended up in detention, arbitrary detention according to the Working Group onArbitrary Detention from the United Nations. I ended up spending five yearsthere."

The American contractor was arrested in Cuba while workingcovertly in the communist-run country to set up Internet access.

Gross said he spent the first year in prison confined tohis cell and rarely saw daylight.

"The first year I wrote a song called ‘No tengo nada,’which means ‘I have nothing,’" Gross said. "The reason I chose thattitle was because I absolutely had nothing there. I had no television, nonewspapers, no books. I wasn’t allowed to have paper and pen, so I couldn’twrite. I even had my dental floss confiscated. I had nothing for the firstyear. I was in the cell just about 24/7. I saw maybe 20 minutes of sunlight thefirst year."

"In the next years, 14 months after I was arrested, Iwas finally charged with a crime and I was put on trial," Gross said."I was found guilty of being a threat to the integrity or independence ofthe state, which I thought was kind of strange because I didn’t think that thestate had any integrity. I was found guilty before the trial started andsentenced to 15 years in maximum security."

Gross was convicted of espionage by a Cuban court in 2011and sentenced to 15 years for bringing telecommunication devices into Cubawhile working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for InternationalDevelopment. The Cuban government accused him of being party to a U.S.-led plotto overthrow the government.

Fernandez, who’s been president of his country for 12years, had also mediated in the complicit between Ecuador and Colombia, thelatter’s dispute with Nicaragua over a contested island. He’s also served as electionsobservers in recent polls in Latin America.

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