Released from Cuba, Alan Gross says freedom is not free

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Alan Gross American Prisoner in Cuba Released
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Released from Cuba, Alan Gross says freedom is not free
Alan Gross, speaks alongside his wife Judy, during a press conference after being released by Cuba on December 17, 2014 in Washington,DC. Gross, an American contractor jailed on the communist-ruled island since 2009, was released amid signs of an imminent thaw in ties between the Cold War foes. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 17: Alan Gross (L), recently released by Cuban authorities, and his wife Judy (R) arrive for brief remarks during a press conference at his lawyer's office shortly after arriving in the United States December 17, 2014 in Washington, DC. Following months of Cuban and American negotiations to secure Gross's release, the two nations also agreed to normalize relations after more than 50 years of tension. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 17: Alan Gross, with his wife Judy, makes a statement to the news media at the law offices of Gilbert LLC after arriving back in the United States December 17, 2014 in Washington, DC. A United States Agency for International Develpment contractor, Gross was imprisoned in Cuba for five years on espionage charges after he delivered satellite telephone equipment to Jews living on the island. Gross' release is signalling a new era in U.S.-Cuba relations as President Barack Obama announced a political thawing between the two countries, the first in more than 50 years. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Alan Gross, smiles during a press conference after being released by Cuba on December 17, 2014 in Washington,DC. Gross, an American contractor jailed on the communist-ruled island since 2009, was released amid signs of an imminent thaw in ties between the Cold War foes. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 17: Alan Gross makes a statement to the news media at the law offices of Gilbert LLC after arriving back in the United States December 17, 2014 in Washington, DC. A United States Agency for International Develpment contractor, Gross was imprisoned in Cuba for five years on espionage charges after he delivered satellite telephone equipment to Jews living on the island. Gross' release is signalling a new era in U.S.-Cuba relations as President Barack Obama announced a political thawing between the two countries, the first in more than 60 years. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Alan Gross, alongside his wife Judy, waves as he leaves a press conference after being released by Cuba on December 17, 2014 in Washington,DC. Gross, an American contractor jailed on the communist-ruled island since 2009, was released amid signs of an imminent thaw in ties between the Cold War foes. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks Wednesday from the Cabinet Room, at the White House, in Washington, D.C., regarding the thaw in Cuba - U.S. relations. (White House)
RT @ChrisVanHollen: .@SenatorLeahy, Sen. Flake and I meet Alan Gross at the airport in Cuba to bring him home http://t.co/mqXH3pDa9K
President Obama speaks with Cuban President Raul Castro on Tuesday, December 16, 2014, in a photo released by the White House. (The White House / Pete Souza)
Sen. Ben Cardin, Alan Gross, Judy Gross http://t.co/ZrW1HavQ4F
Here's Alan Gross on our flight from Cuba as the pilot announced we had entered U.S. Airspace. http://t.co/AVvb7FEMN9
FILE - In this Nov. 27, 2012 file photo provided by James L. Berenthal, shows jailed American Alan Gross poses for a photo during a visit by Rabbi Elie Abadie and U.S. lawyer James L. Berenthal at Finlay military hospital as he serves a prison sentence in Havana, Cuba. The mother of an American man who was imprisoned in Cuba while working to set up Internet access there has died. The family of 92-year-old Evelyn Gross said Wednesday that she died in Plano, Texas. She had suffered from lung cancer. Gross’ son Alan Gross was arrested in Cuba in 2009. The Maryland man had been working covertly in Cuba as a subcontractor for the U.S. government's U.S. Agency for International Development. (AP Photo/James L. Berenthal, File)
Alan Gross. Back on U.S. soil. http://t.co/Ut5jvdQGg2
Alan and Judy Gross. Together again. Just before leaving Cuba this morning. #alangross http://t.co/cdIlIkYfF3
Rene Gonzales, the first liberated cuban spy, on his way to greet the last three released of the #cuban5 http://t.co/HGwDmUofWJ
.@JohnKerry embraces #AlanGross as he lands at Andrews AFB on his return home from #Cuba http://t.co/3VI6DXCpLy
Judy Gross, wife of imprisoned U.S. government subcontractor Alan Gross, gives an interview in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, June 25, 2014. Gross is in Havana to visit her jailed husband. The wife and lawyer of Alan Gross who is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba said Wednesday they fear for his life even more after his mother's death from cancer last week. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)
Judy Gross, wife of imprisoned U.S. government subcontractor Alan Gross, lisitens during an interview in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, June 25, 2014. Gross is in Havana to visit her jailed husband. The wife and lawyer of Alan Gross who is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba said Wednesday they fear for his life even more after his mother's death from cancer last week. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)
FILE - In this file handout photo provided by the Gross family shows Alan and Judy Gross. Forty-four senators have written to Cuba's president to call for the release of a Maryland man imprisoned in Cuba for almost three years. The one-page letter released Tuesday is signed by 34 Democrats, nine Republicans and independent Joseph Lieberman. It says that the detention of Alan Gross is a major obstacle to improving relations between Cuba and the United States. (AP Photo/Gross Family, File)
FILE - In this 2005 file handout photo provided by the Gross family, Alan and Judy Gross are seen in Jerusalem. A lawyer for Gross, a Maryland man imprisoned in Cuba for more than two years says his client's health is worsening and that country is withholding the results of medical tests performed on him there. (AP Photo/Gross Family, File)
FILE - This two-picture combo handout file photos provided in June 2012 by Peter Kahn, the attorney of imprisoned American Alan Gross, shows Gross in 2009 and in 2012. Gross, a 63-year-old U.S. government subcontractor from Montgomery County, Md., has been in prison in Cuba since late 2009. An independent physician has reviewed medical records sent by Cuba and the doctor says Gross may have a cancerous growth on his shoulder, contradicting the Cuban government's stance that his health is normal. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Peter Kahn, File)
In this photo taken Monday Dec. 26, 2011 and provided to the Associated Press by Adela Dworin, American government contractor Alan Gross, center, poses for a photo with Cuban Jewish leaders Adela Dworin, right, and David Prinstein at the Finlay military hospital in Havana, Cuba, during a visit with Gross to celebrate the Jewish holiday Hanukkah. Gross, sentenced to 15 years in jail earlier this year, was accused of working for an USAID program aimed at bringing about regime change on the island. He was not included in a massive prisoner amnesty announced by President Raul Castro last week.(AP Photo)
Judy Gross, wife of Alan Gross, an American imprisoned in Cuba, right, takes part in a rally to support her husband, Monday, Nov. 28, 2011, outside the Cuban Interests Section in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Alan Gross emerged Wednesday from five years of captivity in Cuba praising the Cuban people and offering a lesson he said he learned: Freedom is not free.

In his first public remarks after arriving in the U.S., Gross also spoke supportively of President Barack Obama's move to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba after more than a half-century of discord. He said that more than five decades of history had shown that the previous U.S. approach to its old foe wasn't effective.

"Two wrongs never make a right," Gross said. "I truly hope that we can now get beyond these mutually belligerent policies."

Appearing in decent health and walking without support, Gross spoke to reporters at a Washington law office shortly after a U.S. plane flew him from Cuba back to the U.S. Despite his harrowing experience, Gross said he had the utmost respect for the Cuban people and said he was pained "to see them treated so unjustly."

"In no way are they responsible for the ordeal to which my family and I have been subjected," Gross said, describing the vast majority of Cubans as "incredibly kind, generous and talented."

Gross, 65, was freed from prison Wednesday as part of an agreement that included the release of three Cubans jailed in the United States, officials said.

His wife, Judy Gross, has called him a humanitarian and an idealist, someone who was "probably naïve" and did not realize the risks of going to Cuba as a subcontractor for the federal government's U.S. Agency for International Development.

In his brief appearance, Gross effusively praised the U.S. officials, lawmakers, family members and community members who helped secure his release and advocated for him over the past half-decade. Knowing he wasn't forgotten at home was crucial to his survival, he said.

Gross was arrested in 2009 while working in the Communist-run country to set up Internet access for the island's small Jewish community, access that bypassed local restrictions and monitoring. Cuba considers USAID's programs illegal attempts by the U.S. to undermine its government. Gross was tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Alan Gross Freed After 5 Years Imprisoned in Cuba
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