American man held for two years in Venezuela prison returns to the US with his new wife

Chris Kleponis – Pool/Getty Images(SALT LAKE CITY) — An American jailed for two years without a trial in Venezuela returned home to Utah on Monday with the Venezuelan wife he had originally traveled to the Latin American nation to marry.

Josh Holt arrived at Salt Lake City International airport on Monday evening with his wife Thamara Caleno.

“We want to thank all the people that supported us,” Holt told ABC affiliate KTVX-TV. “The whole time we were over there it was hard but we definitely felt the help and the support of the people here. I want to say thank you to all the many prayers that were given on our behalf.”

His release followed months of negotiations between the U.S. and Venezuelan governments, according to federal officials.

Holt first reunited with family in Washington D.C on Saturday and visited the White House to meet President Donald Trump.

Holt, a Mormon missionary, traveled to Venezuela in June 2016 to marry Caleno, whom he met on an online Mormon dating site. Holt had originally planned to return to the United States with his new wife and two stepchildren.

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 both had been imprisoned in Caracas awaiting trial. Holt and his family maintain they were wrongly accused.

“We thank you for your collaboration during this time of anguish,” Holt’s family said in the statement. “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 the couple’s release came just days after the presidential election in Venezuela. 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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