Che Guevara portrait seen in background of Alan Gross photo

Picture of revolutionist stirs controversy on social media

This photograph showing Alan Gross meeting with his lawyer and spokeswoman with a portrait of Che Guevara in the background is the subject of much discussion on social media. (Stephen Crowley/New York Times)

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – A picture hanging on the wall in the background of a photograph showing Alan Gross preparing for a speech to the media is the topic of much discussion on social media.

Gross returned to the United States on Wednesday after spending five years in a Cuban prison. His release was part of President Barack Obama's effort to normalize relations with Cuba.

The photograph, taken by New York Times photographer Stephen Crowley, shows Gross meeting with attorney Scott Gilbert and spokeswoman Jill Zuckman. Hanging on the wall in the background is a famous portrait of revolutionist Che Guevara.

Guevara was a leader in the 1959 Cuban revolution to replace President Fulgencio Batista with Fidel Castro.

After Crowley posted the photo on Twitter, many were quick to comment that the attorney for a man imprisoned by the Castro regime apparently has a picture of Castro's executioner-in-chief hanging in his office.

Gross was arrested in Cuba in 2009 while working covertly on the communist island to set up Internet access.

The 65-year-old American contractor was convicted of espionage by a Cuban court in 2011 and sentenced to 15 years for bringing telecommunication devices into Cuba while working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. The Cuban government accused him of being party to a U.S.-led plot to overthrow the government.

"I also feel compelled to share with you my utmost respect for and fondness of the people of Cuba," Gross said during Wednesday's news conference. "In no way are they responsible for the ordeal to which my family and I have been subjected."

Gross said he supports the president's plan.

Gilbert has not commented about the picture.

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