American Joshua Holt now a political prisoner in Venezuela

Joshua Holt is a Mormon who fell in love with a Venezuelan woman he met online. Holt eventually traveled to the Dominican Republican where the couple were engaged. A couple months ago they were married and spent their honeymoon on an island off the coast of Venezuela. Their plan was to remain in Venezuela until Holt’s bride could secure a visa to leave the country. But a few days after returning to Caracas from their honeymoon, things took an unexpected turn. From Fox News Latino:

Venezuelan police showed up at their apartment, went through their stuff and claimed to find an assault rifle and a grenade.

[Joshua’s mother] Laurie Holt says the police asked for $10,000 from the couple to avoid legal trouble. She also says there are five people who say they saw the police bring the weapons into the apartment. “Only three of the witnesses are willing to testify on behalf of Josh and Thamara,” Laurie told FNL…

Josh sent a letter to his parents, through Thamara’s mother, in which he claims his health is suffering and that the weapons found in his apartment were planted.

“He had two strikes against him. He’s American and Mormon, and the police hate both,” Laurie Holt told FNL.

In addition to the weapons charges, Holt is also being held on suspicion of being an American spy.

On Thursday, 33 members of congress sent a letter to Secretary Kerry and Treasury Secretary Lew asking them to intercede in Joshua’s case. The letter reads in part:

Since February, the government has imprisoned over 4,000 people for political purposes, including American citizens Francisco Marquez and Joshua Holt. There are almost 100 political prisoners in Venezuela, and only a few weeks ago, more than 47 people were detained just for protesting for food. These continued arbitrary detentions show Maduro’s utter disregard for basic democratic principles.

Francisco Marquez was arrested in June while gathering signatures for a referendum that, if passed, would remove President Maduro from power.

The World Justice Project, an initiative of the American Bar Association, judged Venezuela the worst of 102 countries it looked at when it comes to rule of law. That was in 2015 but there’s little hope things have improved since then.

Holt’s family has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the expenses of Joshua’s legal expenses. Fox News reports they have “hired a team of lawyers” to try to secure his release.