The National Council of Young Israel (NCYI) publically thanked Governor Bill Richardson for his extraordinary efforts to secure the release of Alan Gross, who is being imprisoned in Cuba, and Yanky Ostreicher, who is being jailed in Bolivia. Richardson, who recently reaffirmed his commitment to help win the release of both Gross and Ostreicher, has won international acclaim for playing key roles in securing the release of many prisoners and hostages over the past two decades.
Richardson served as the governor of New Mexico from 2003 to 2011. Prior to becoming governor, Richardson was President Bill Clinton’s U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Energy Secretary. A former U.S. Congressman, Richardson also served as Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.
“Governor Richardson’s commitment to become personally involved in these two cases of injustice gives us hope that Jacob Ostreicher and Alan Gross will soon be able to return home to their families,” said NCYI President Farley Weiss. “The concept of pidyon shvuyim, the redemption of captives, is a major precept in Jewish law, and we as a community and as a nation need to rally around the plights of Jacob Ostreicher and Alan Gross and do everything we can to secure their release.”
“We greatly appreciate Governor Richardson’s willingness to intercede on behalf of two of our brethren who are suffering terribly,” continued Weiss. “The Ostreicher and Gross families deserve to have their loved ones return home and we are grateful that Governor Richardson has pledged to help make that happen.”
Jacob Ostreicher, a father and grandfather, was arrested in the summer of 2011 by the Bolivian police. He was in Bolivia at the time managing a rice growing business which he had invested in. Although he was accused by Bolivian authorities of money laundering, he still has not been formally charged with any crimes after being incarcerated for 18 months. Several weeks ago, Bolivian authorities arrested seven top Bolivian government officials involved in the Ostreicher case, including prosecutors and the judge who directed that Ostreicher be imprisoned, and charged them with attempting to extort Ostreicher. A bipartisan group of U.S. Congressional representatives recently urged Bolivian President Evo Morales to arrange for Ostreicher’s release.
Alan Gross is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba. He was arrested while working as a government subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development and charged with committing crimes against the Cuban state. Gross was in Cuba at the time to help members of Cuba’s Jewish community by bringing them satellite phones and computer equipment. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention recently called on Cuba to immediately free Gross after it concluded that his imprisonment was arbitrary and violated international human rights standards. In addition, the U.S. Senate recently passed a unanimous resolution calling for Gross’ immediate release.