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Venezuelan prosecutor seeks conditional release for Joshua Holt

By Mitch Wilkinson, Associated Press | Posted - Jul. 14, 2017 at 9:05 p.m.


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RIVERTON — The family of a Utah man held for more than a year in a Venezuela prison remains cautious after a chief prosecutor has requested the conditional release of their son and his wife.

"The prosecution has sent in the petition but the judge has not approved it yet, so we're staying faithful and praying really hard," Laurie Holt said in a text message after hearing the news. "We're trying to remain quiet right now not to bring any more attention to it in Venezuela."

The petition to have Joshua Holt and his wife, Theresa Calena, freed but barred from leaving Venezuela while awaiting trial was made Friday because of what the prosecutor's office said were undue delays in his prosecution.

The 25-year-old Holt was arrested June 30, 2016, after traveling to Venezuela to wed Calena. They had met on the internet when Holt wanted to improve his Spanish after returning from an LDS Church mission. She was his online tutor.

Authorities accused Holt of hiding an assault rifle and grenades at the apartment where the two were living. Authorities have suggested he was linked to a U.S.-backed conspiracy to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

Prosecutors also requested that they be allowed to verify the couples' health in the Caracas facility run by Venezuela's intelligence police where they are being held alongside some of President Nicolas Maduro's fiercest opponents.

The Holt family has raised concerns about their son's health, saying earlier this year that he wrote of being ill and malnourished, saying he has had kidney stones and breathing problems.

His family marked the anniversary of his arrest with a vigil last week in Riverton.

Holt's ongoing detention has drawn the attention of national political figures.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is seeking to negotiate Holt's release with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, but he has not yet received a visa to go to the country, Laurie Holt said.

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has been urging the White House to push for Holt's release and appeared with the family in Riverton for last week's rally.

“We have been in communication with the Holt family and the State Dept. this evening," Hatch spokesman Matt Whitlock said in a statement. "We will defer to the Holt family for any announcements about important developments, but ask that you keep Josh and Thamy in your prayers as we hope to see movement toward their release.”

Utah's representatives in the U.S. House, Republicans Mia Love, Rob Bishop and Chris Stewart, have also joined other members of Congress in writing a letter to President Donald Trump saying Holt's release is crucial and that there is no reason for his "extended suffering."

Contributing: Associated Press, Ashley Kewish

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