The parents of Joshua Holt, the man currently imprisoned on bogus weapons charges in Venezuela, say their son is being held hostage because he is an American and that the U.S. government hasn’t been doing much to help. Laurie and Jason Holt wrote an piece about their son’s situation which was published by the Washington Post Wednesday:
Our 24-year-old son, Joshua Holt, is a hostage of the government of Venezuela. Framed by Venezuelan officials on ludicrous weapons charges so he could be leveraged as a political bargaining chip in bilateral discussions with the United States, Josh has been sitting in a small cell in a jail run by the country’s notorious intelligence agency, the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN), since June. Every time we speak out, prison officials punish and threaten him, denying him access to visitors. They recently forced him to undress and respond to humiliating commands while naked, violating Josh’s Latter-day Saints religious beliefs and practices. The prison has also repeatedly refused court-ordered medical treatment for his deteriorating health…
Hostages are not just individuals held by terrorist groups and other “bad actors” for ransom or prisoner exchanges. They are also political prisoners held by foreign governments as political pawns. Josh never broke Venezuelan law; he was arrested for being an American, and he has not been freed, despite his innocence, because his U.S. citizenship carries significant weight. Last month, for the second time, a hearing scheduled in Josh’s case was postponed because the judge didn’t show up. This should not be a surprise, given how the Venezuelan government has used its media channels to allege Josh is a “gringo agent” acting on behalf of the United States to destabilize the country. Yet there is nothing for us to do but pray for due process or our government’s intervention in what is clearly a hostage situation.
Joshua Holt is a Mormon who fell in love with a Venezuelan woman he met on a Mormon dating site. He eventually flew to the Dominican Republic to meet the woman and the two became engaged. They were married earlier this year and spent their honeymoon on an island off the coast of Venezuela. A few days after returning from their honeymoon, police showed up at their house and claimed to have found a cache of weapons, including hand grenades, hidden inside. Several witnesses claimed to have seen police carrying the weapons into the house but not all of them were willing to testify for fear of reprisals. The incident seems to have started as a shakedown attempt, with police asking Joshua for $10,000 to avoid further trouble.
At this point it’s going to take some pressure from the U.S. to get Joshua out. Maybe President Obama could take a break from pardoning drug dealers and focus on freeing a completely innocent American who is being held hostage in a foreign prison.
Here’s a video report from July by KSL News: