American jailed in Venezuela for two years to return home to US

May 26, 2018 - 1:10 pm
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(WASHINGTON) -- Joshua Holt, an American who has been jailed in Venezuela without a trial for two years, has been released, officials said on Saturday.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who has advocated for Holt's release, said he's "honored" to be able to finally reunite the Utah native with his family.

"Over the past two years, I've worked with two presidential administrations, countless diplomatic contacts, ambassadors from all over the world, a network of contacts in Venezuela and President Maduro himself, and I could not be more honored to be able to reunite Josh with his sweet, long-suffering family in Riverton," Hatch said in a statement Saturday morning.

President Donald Trump said via Twitter that Holt will arrive Saturday night in Washington, D.C., where he will be reunited with his family at the White House.

"The great people of Utah will be very happy!" the president tweeted.

Holt will be returning to the United States with his wife, Thamara Caleño.

The Mormon missionary traveled to Venezuela in June 2016 to marry Caleño, whom he met on an online Mormon dating site. Holt planned to return to the United States with his new wife and two stepchildren, but they never made it back.

The newlyweds were awaiting visas when Venezuelan police raided their apartment and arrested them on charges of terrorism, espionage and illegal possession of weapons. They were imprisoned in Caracas awaiting trial ever since. Holt and his family maintain they were wrongly accused.

Holt's parents have said their son was kept in appalling conditions -- with meager food and limited access to health services -- at El Helicoide, the infamous political prison in central Caracas. He had lost a considerable amount of weight and was suffering from kidney stones and painful tooth decay, they said.

They called the release of their son and his wife a "miracle."

The news of their release comes just days after Venezuela's presidential election. Nicolas Maduro was re-elected last Sunday for a second six-year term in a vote the United States denounced and said it won't recognize.

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