U.S. missionary held in Venezuela asks for help amid prisoner uprising

By Susan McFarland  |  May 17, 2018 at 9:28 AM
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May 17 (UPI) -- An American man who's been jailed in Venezuela for two years used social media to call for help Wednesday, as inmates around him attempted to take over the prison.

Joshua Holt, one of more than 300 political prisoners in Venezuela, has been at the El Helicoide jail since 2016 awaiting trial. A Facebook post Wednesday depicts him amid a riot that started after one inmate was beaten by another.

"They're outside, they're trying to break in, they're saying they're going to kill me," Holt, a Mormon missionary from Utah, said.

The El Helicoide prison houses political and nonpolitical prisoners.

Patricia Ceballos, whose husband is one of the political prisoners, said the protest was met with tear gas by Venezuela's National Guard and riot police.

The U.S. embassy in Caracas tweeted it's "very worried about the rebellion."

"Joshua Holt and other US citizens are in danger," the tweet read. "The Venezuelan government is directly responsible for their security and we will hold them responsible if anything happens to them."

Holt, 26, has been held by Venezuelan authorities since since June 2016, when police raided his Caracas apartment. Police said they found a cache of weapons and evidence he was involved in a political assassination plot.

He said the evidence was planted by police.

In the cellphone video, Holt said he's begged the U.S. government for help.

"They say they're doing things but I'm still here," he said.

In another message on his page, Holt said the Venezuelan government is keeping him as a political pawn.

"How long do I have to suffer unjustly in this place?" it read. "They want to kill me and paint the walls with my blood. I am a political prisoner and they won't let me free. They won't give me a true trial."

The message added, "as long as my government continues attacking this government and as long as Marco Rubio continues talking about me the longer that they will never let me go."

Prosecutor Tarek William Saab tweeted he'd sent a commission to the prison to resolve the situation.

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