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Senator Orrin Hatch hails Donald Trump for helping secure release of prisoner

28 May 2018

President Donald Trump secured the release of Josh Holt, an American missionary, from a Venezuelan prison and the moment he was reunited with his parents after two years was captured on film. Josh Holt has been released from a jail in Venezuela after spending almost two years behind bars on weapons charges. Orrin Hatch. Holt's wife, Thamy, has also been released, Hatch said.

HuffPost contributed additional information to this report.

Holt was held without trial at the headquarters of intelligence agency Sebin, a Caracas complex known as the Helicoide.

"We are all, as a group, very happy", Trump said.

Secret back channel talks about Holt between Caleb McCarry and a close ally of the Venezuelan President had been ongoing for months before Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met with Venezuela's president, Nicolas Maduro, on Friday, and secured his release.

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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 United States government.

Holt was arrested about 18 months ago and accused of stockpiling a cache of weapons, including assault rifles and grenades, after he traveled to Caracas to marry his Venezuelan girlfriend. Josh Holt has been released from a jail in Venezuela after spending almost two years behind bars on weapons charges.

Holt's release comes a week after President Nicolás Maduro won re-election in what critics charged was a rigged election, and days after Maduro ordered the top American diplomat and his deputy expelled as "conspirators" against his government.

"I'm just overwhelmed with gratitude for you guys, for everything that you've done", Holt said.

"We're very proud of that record and we have others coming", he said.

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Following the vote, Maduro expelled USA charge d'affaires Todd Robinson and his deputy for allegedly conspiring to sabotage the vote by pressuring opposition parties to boycott the election, which had the lowest voter turnout in decades.

"We hope this gesture strengthens dialogue and respect toward our independence", Venezuela's Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said of Holt's release in comments broadcast on state television.

His family denied all the charges and said that they were actually being held hostage to bargain with the United States due to its economic sanctions on Venezuela, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Holt is a native of Utah. "I could not be more honored to be able to reunite Josh with his sweet, long-suffering family in Riverton", he said. "When you look back on your tenure during the presidency, this is just one of many great things you're doing, but it's really a great thing".

"You've been very courageous", Trump replied.

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Geoff Ramsey, of the Washington Office on Latin America, which advocates for human rights, said that by releasing Holt, Maduro "wants the world to know he is willing to talk". The Venezuelan government released 20 activists from prison the same day.

Senator Orrin Hatch hails Donald Trump for helping secure release of prisoner