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Cuban spy, on probation from U.S. prison, visits dying brother in Cuba

By Patrick Oppmann, CNN
March 31, 2012 -- Updated 0031 GMT (0831 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rene Gonzalez was released from U.S. prison last year after serving 13 years for spying
  • A U.S. judge allows him to make a visit to Cuba
  • Meanwhile, a U.S. State Department contractor is now in a Cuban prison
  • He hopes the Cuban government will reciprocate on his request to visit dying mother in Dallas

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- A man convicted of spying in the United States for the Cuban government arrived in Cuba Friday to visit his dying brother, according to the communist nation's state-run media.

Rene Gonzalez is one of five men known as "the Wasp network" who were convicted of spying on U.S. military installations and on Cuban exile groups opposed to Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Gonzalez's trip was called "a private, family visit," on the official Cubadebate website.

The Cuban government has argued that the men were spying to prevent attacks on Cuban soil.

As part of the spy operation, the men infiltrated the Florida-based Brothers to the Rescue group, which searched for Cuban rafters from small private planes and also dropped anti-government pamphlets over Cuba.

In 1996, Cuban military planes shot down two of the group's planes. Four men died in the air strike, which led to a further deterioration in U.S.-Cuba relations.

The five men were arrested in 1998 and convicted in 2001 of carrying out a lengthy intelligence operation in the United States. Cuba has led an extensive media campaign for the men's release.

Gonzalez was released last year on probation after spending 13 years in prison. The terms of his release prevented him from returning to Cuba. The other four men, Ruben Campa, Gerardo Hernandez, Luis Medina and Antonio Guerrero remain in US prisons.

But Gonzalez's attorney successfully argued this month to a federal judge that he should be allowed to return for 15 days to visit his brother who is dying of cancer in Cuba. Prosecutors had argued against Gonzalez being allowed to leave the country.

Philip Horowitz, Gonzalez' attorney, told CNN his client would return to the United States after the visit.

"He doesn't want to negatively impact his friends' cases," Horowitz said.

In March, a lawyer for Alan Gross, a U.S. State Department contractor convicted of transporting communications equipment to Cuba, asked that he be allowed to leave Cuban prison temporarily to visit sick relatives. The Cuban government has not responded to the request.

Gross' wife, Judy, said she hoped that Gonzalez's visit will prompt the Cuban government to reciprocate.

"We have requested that Alan be allowed to travel to Dallas, Texas, to be with his 90-year-old mother on what may well be her last birthday on April 15, as she has taken a turn for the worse in her battle with inoperable lung cancer," Judy Gross said in a statement. "I pray that President Raul Castro will find it in his heart to reciprocate the U.S. gesture and give us a positive answer. This is Cuba's chance to show that they are serious about dealing with Alan's case on what they themselves have called a 'reciprocal humanitarian basis'."

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