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A government subcontractor who has spent over four years imprisoned in Cuba should be allowed to sue the U.S. government over lost wages and legal fees, his attorney told an appeals court Friday.

Alan Gross was working in Cuba as a government subcontractor when he was arrested in 2009. He has since lost income and racked up legal fees, his attorney Barry Buchman told the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. A lawyer for the government argued the claims are based on his detention in Cuba, making him ineligible to sue.

The panel is expected to issue a written ruling on the case at a later date.

A lower-court judge previously threw out Gross' lawsuit against the government in 2013, saying federal law bars lawsuits against the government based on injuries suffered in foreign countries. Gross' lawyers appealed.

Gross was detained in December 2009 while working to set up Internet access as a subcontractor for the U.S. government's U.S. Agency for International Development, which does work promoting democracy in the communist country. It was his fifth trip to Cuba to work with Jewish communities on setting up Internet access that bypassed local censorship. Cuba considers USAID's programs illegal attempts by the U.S. to undermine its government, and Gross was tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison.


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