Venezuelan prison riot renews calls to free imprisoned Utahn

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah man who has been held in a Venezuelan prison for two years pleaded for help from Americans Wednesday and said he feared for his life as violence erupted at the prison.

A message appeared on a Facebook page Wednesday belonging to Josh Holt, 26, of Riverton, saying in part that “I am not a political pawn I am a human being a child of God and I just want to live happy with my wife and children. I have NEVER done anything wrong in my life. Please help me!!”

In a video posted on the page on Wednesday, Holt said his life is in danger.

The turmoil renewed calls from U.S. government officials and Holt’s family for the imprisoned Utahn to be freed on humanitarian grounds. Holt’s mother and members of Utah’s congressional delegation said they had learned he was not harmed in the prison riot.

“This has never been like this ever, until now. I can say he’s probably OK right now,” said his mother, Laurie Holt, on Wednesday evening. But she said she wasn’t certain he would remain safe.

“He hasn’t had any justice whatsoever on trumped-up charges that are ridiculous,” Laurie Holt said.

Venezuelan authorities have claimed Holt was keeping guns in the home of the woman he went to the country to marry in 2016. Holt denies the charges. His family has said he was in the wrong place at the wrong time of a raid in the Caracas neighborhood of his wife, Thamara Caleno, whom he met through online Spanish lessons after returning from an LDS mission.

Laurie Holt said that though she feels the U.S. government has been working hard to free her son, she still is wracked with despair. Her son’s trial was scheduled to start Tuesday but he wasn’t brought to court for the hearing, she said.

Venezuelan news media reported that political prisoners in the same facility as Holt are demanding an end to what they called torture and mistreatment of detainees, saying some inmates are minors and others are being held even though they have not been prosecuted. In a video, Holt appears with some of the protestors, urging their release on the basis they haven’t had a trial and need medical attention for unspecified health issues.

Mensaje del ciudadano estadounidense, Josh Holt junto a los presos políticos venezolanos en Sebin-El Helicoide: “Quiero demostrarles que no he sido secuestrado por nadie que no sea el gobierno de Venezuela. Le pedimos a la gente y al gobierno de Estados Unidos que nos ayude.”

— Alberto Rodríguez (@AlbertoRodNews) May 16, 2018

The U.S. Embassy in Venezuela said on Twitter it was concerned for Holt’s safety, labeling the turmoil a riot. The embassy tweeted that Venezuela’s government is responsible for the safety of prisoners and will be held accountable if something happens.

Estamos muy preocupados por el motín en El Helicoide. Joshua Holt y otros ciudadanos estadounidenses están en peligro. El gobierno de Venezuela es directamente responsable por su seguridad …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News


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