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American contractor Alan Gross released from prison in swap with Cuba

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Posted at 9:00 AM, Dec 17, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-17 10:34:26-05

American contractor Alan Gross has been released from Cuba after 5 years in prison.

Gross was released in a prisoner swap with Cuba, and Obama is set to overhaul his Cuba policy, according to CNN.

The 65-year-old is en route to U.S. soil.

"This morning, Alan Gross has departed Cuba on a US government plane bound for the United States," an administration official said in a statement to USA Today. "Mr. Gross was released on humanitarian grounds by the Cuban government at the request of the United States."

The groundbreaking prisoner exchange is expected to be announced by President Obama shortly after noon at the White House.

The agreement was reached following more than a year of secret back channel talks at the highest levels of both governments, according to ABC News.

Gross was convicted of espionage by a Cuban court in 2011. He was sentenced to 15 years for bringing telecommunication devices into Cuba while working as a subcontractor for United State Agency for International Development.

Gross’s wife Judy said in a statement released earlier this month: “Enough is enough. My husband has paid a terrible price for serving his country and community.”

Gross had threatened a hunger strike if not released by the end of the year.

His lawyer reported after visiting recently that Gross is nearly toothless, blind in one eye and barely able to walk due to arthritis, according to ABC News.

The United States has agreed to the humanitarian release of three Cuban agents convicted of espionage in a controversial trial that found them guilty of spying on anti-Castro groups in Miami, but not the U.S. government, according to ABC News.

Information from CNN, ABC News and The Associated Press was used in this report.