President Donald Trump announced Saturday morning that American prisoner Josh Holt has been released from prison in Venezuela.
“Good news about the release of the American hostage from Venezuela,” Trump tweeted. “Should be landing in D.C. this evening and be in the White House, with his family, at about 7:00 P.M. The great people of Utah will be very happy!”
Holt, 26, a Utah native, traveled to Venezuela in June 2016 to marry Venezuelan Thamara Caleño, according to news reports. He was arrested shortly afterward and accused by the Venezuelan government of stockpiling weapons and attempting to destabilize the government, according to The Washington Post. Holt was held for nearly two years without standing trial.
Holt’s release comes more than a week after he posted videos to Facebook during a prison riot, pleading for help from Americans and the US government. In one video he said, “I’ve been begging my government for two years. They say they’re doing things, but I’m still here.”
Holt and his wife were freed overnight and released to the US Embassy in Caracas, according to Foro Penal, a human rights organization of lawyers and others who assist political prisoners in Venezuela. The couple, joined by Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, were on a flight back to the US on Saturday afternoon.
A spokesperson for the Venezuelan government said in a statement, “The Judicial Power gave the corresponding benefit of full freedom to these two citizens who at this time are flying to the United States.”
Trump tweeted a second time Saturday, saying, “Looking forward to seeing Joshua Holt this evening in the White House. The great people of Utah are Celebrating!”
Aides were asked to prepare for Trump to deliver a statement on Holt’s release sometime Saturday night from the White House, a White House official told CNN’s Jeff Zeleny. The details were still being worked out, the official said.
“We’re grateful to all who participated in this miracle,” Holt’s family said in a statement.
Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah announced his office helped secure Holt’s release. “I’m pleased to announce that after two years of hard work, we’ve secured the release of Josh and Thamy Holt, who are now on their way home to the United States from Venezuela,” Hatch said in a tweet.
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SOURCE: CNN, Kate Sullivan