Published: Thu, May 17, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Venezuela Launches Commission to Investigate Prison Riot

Venezuela Launches Commission to Investigate Prison Riot

Joshua Holt, from Utah, is being held at the El Helicoide facility in Caracas, where riots broke out on Wednesday over a desire for speedier hearings and freedom for those who had been granted release orders.

In two short videos shot on a cellphone and posted Wednesday on his Facebook page, Joshua Holt said his life was threatened during a disturbance by inmates who include President Nicolas Maduro's top opponents. The country's chief prosecutor Tarek William Saab said in a statement posted on Twitter on Wednesday that a delegation from the prosecutor's office was sent to the prison to speak to the prisoners and address their requests.

Holt, 26, has been held by Venezuelan authorities since since June 2016, when police raided his Caracas apartment.

Holt's family has denied the charges against him and suggested that the Venezuelan government is holding him and his wife to bargain with the US over economic sanctions.

"Please, my fellow Americans don't allow me to continue suffering in Venezuela", Holt said in a written message, also posted on his Facebook page.

Today, I learned Josh Holt was enduring a riot situation in his Venezuelan jail. The renewed political violence comes only four days before an illegitimate May 20th Presidential elections, which the local opposition and several countries have denounced as rigged.

Joshua Holt, a USA citizen and Mormon missionary, posted on his Facebook page around 3:00 pm EST, "Helicoide the prison where I am at has fallen the guards are here and people are trying to break in my room and kill me".

They say they did so after a political prisoner was beaten.

One said that tear gas and weapons had been fired at detainees, but they were holding out to demand freedom. The only people who are kidnapping me is the government of Venezuela. They are outside. They are trying to break in.

Back in March, dozens of people were killed after a fire broke out during riots at another Venezuelan prison in the northern city of Valencia.

Cabello also broke a longstanding silence from Venezuelan officials' about Holt's imprisonment to accuse the American of being a spy.

Tensions between the US and Venezuela have risen as President Donald Trump's administration considers oil sanctions on the country ahead of Venezuela's presidential election Sunday.

Holt's trial on weapons charges had been scheduled to start Tuesday but Holt and his wife, Thamara Caleno, were never taken to the courthouse by their jailers.

The Trump administration has warned that it could put crippling oil sanctions on Venezuela if Maduro goes ahead with what the US and others consider a sham presidential election Sunday. How long do I have to suffer here.

A State Department official told NBC News that the department was renewing its call for Venezuela to free Holt on humanitarian grounds and that the safety of Americans overseas is one of the department's top priorities.

Relatives of political prisoners held in one of Venezuela's most notorious prisons say the inmates have staged an uprising.

Cabello denied Robinson had been snubbed, accusing him of staging a media show. "We're very anxious about the riot in El Helicoide".

"Joshua Holt and other USA citizens are in danger", he added. "The Venezuelan government is directly responsible for their security and we will hold them responsible if anything happens to them", the embassy tweeted in Spanish.

Senator Orrin Hatch has been working with the Trump Administration to bring Holt and his wife home.

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