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Trump says American prisoner in Venezuela has been released

29 May 2018

A Utah man who has spent the last two years in a Venezuelan jail has been reunited with his family and taken to meet President Donald Trump after his release on Saturday.

A White House official says Joshua Holt arrived Saturday evening at Washington Dulles International Airport. "You've gone through a lot". Josh Holt has been released from a jail in Venezuela after spending almost two years behind bars on weapons charges.

The White House action would complicate Venezuela's efforts to sell off financial IOUs known as "accounts receivable".

News of Holt's return him was praised by others in Congress as well. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, credited with leading the painstaking, behind-the-scenes negotiations. Mike Lee, R-Utah, in a row. The couple has denied the charge of concealing weapons.

He was commenting after Holt, 26, and his wife Thamara Caleno, landed in Washington after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered their release after two years.

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"It feels like a huge victory", said Kim Birdsall, a family friend of the Holts.

For the next two years, Holt endured a living hell. "Not really the great vacation that I was looking for ... But we're still together".

'And the parents are just as good a people as I've ever met in my life'.

"People are trying to break in my room and kill me", Holt posted on Facebook at the time. The U.S. Embassy was kept at an arm's length, for fear of derailing the talks, although the initiative was backed by Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon, who also knew Maduro from his days as political officer in Caracas at the outset of Hugo Chavez's revolution in the 1990s, several senior U.S. officials said.

His wife also was jailed on allegations of being Holt's accomplice. Venezuelan police raided their apartment and arrested them on charges of terrorism, espionage and illegal possession of weapons. The couple were falsely accused of spying on Venezuela on behalf of Washington and neither allotted a trial nor presented with evidence for the claims against them. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met with Maduro on Friday - the outcome of months of secret, backchannel talks about Holt between one of the senator's aides and close allies of the Venezuelan president.

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"We could nearly write a book about the past 48 hours", Corker said.

U.S. authorities had been denied access to a court hearing on Holt's case in December, with Trump labelling the United States citizen a "hostage" of the Venezuela administration.

Trump touted the number of prisoners his administration has released and went on to say that he's specifically looking at trying to free Pastor Andrew Bruson, now imprisoned in Turkey.

Speaking at a news conference in Caracas, Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez said Holt and his wife, Thamy, were freed as part of efforts by Maduro's government to maintain "respectful diplomatic relations" with Washington.

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Trump says American prisoner in Venezuela has been released