American jailed in Venezuela for 2 years to return home to US, officials say

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — American Joshua Holt, who has been jailed in Venezuela without a trial for two years, has been released, officials said today.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who has advocated for Holt’s release, said he’s “honored” to be able to finally reunite the Utah native with his family.

“Over the past two years I’ve worked with two presidential administrations, countless diplomatic contacts, ambassadors from all over the world, a network of contacts in Venezuela, and President Maduro himself, and I could not be more honored to be able to reunited Josh with his sweet, long suffering family in Riverton,” Hatch said in a statement Saturday morning.

In a tweet, the senator released video of the family reuniting.

The elation on display was reinforced by Vice President Mike Pence who tweeted that Holt is “now back home with his family — where he always belonged.”

Earlier, President Donald Trump said via Twitter that Holt will arrive Saturday night in Washington, D.C., where he will be reunited with his family at the White House.

“The great people of Utah will be very happy!”

Holt will be returning to the United States with his wife, Thamara Caleño.

The Mormon missionary traveled to Venezuela in June 2016 to marry Caleño, whom he met on an online Mormon dating site. Holt planned to return to the United States with his new wife and two stepchildren, but they never made it back.

The newlyweds were awaiting visas when Venezuelan police raided their apartment and arrested them on charges of terrorism, espionage and illegal possession of weapons. They were imprisoned in Caracas awaiting trial ever since. Holt and his family maintain they were wrongly accused.

Holt’s parents have said their son was kept in appalling conditions, with meager food and limited access to health services, at El Helicoide, the infamous political prison in central Caracas. He had lost a considerable amount of weight and was suffering from kidney stones and painful tooth decay, they said.

They called the release of their son and his wife a “miracle.”

“We thank you for your collaboration during this time of anguish,” Holt’s family said in a statement to The Associated Press on Saturday. “We ask that you allow us to meet with our son and his wife before giving any interviews and statements. We are grateful to all who participated in this miracle.”

The news of their release comes just days after Venezuela’s presidential election. Nicolas Maduro was re-elected last Sunday for a second six-year term in a vote the United States denounced and said it won’t recognize.

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