CARACAS (Reuters) - The Venezuelan state prosecutor’s office on Friday called for the conditional release of a U.S. citizen held on weapons charges for more than a year, citing delays in his trial.
The family of Joshua Holt, 25, a Mormon missionary from Utah, says he is in precarious health, was framed after traveling to Venezuela to marry, and should be allowed home.
The Holt case has had a low profile, despite tense diplomatic relations between Washington and Venezuela’s leftist government.
A statement from the prosecutor’s office recommended that both Holt and his Venezuelan wife Thamara Caleno, also 25, be allowed out of jail, but prohibited from leaving Venezuela.
The preliminary hearing for the pair was delayed “on repeated occasions” and their state of health should be checked, the statement said, adding that they were being held by Venezuela’s intelligence service in Caracas.
Holt and Caleno were arrested in June last year in connection with a weapons capture by police in Ciudad Caribia, a showcase town built on a mountain outside Caracas close to the Caribbean coast during former leader Hugo Chavez’s rule.
Officials linked them to a murder gang, saying a rifle, a grenade, ammunition and maps were found at their home.
U.S. officials, who in the past have called the charges against Holt “questionable”, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the case.
Holt’s mother declined to comment to Reuters for fear of prejudicing the case.
On a web site set up to help Holt, supporters say he was only planning to stay a couple of months in Venezuela but ended up being accused of conspiring against the government.
“We are thoroughly convinced the evidence was planted and the process was rigged. He has never published nor expressed any desire to conspire against the Venezuelan government,” it says.
Venezuela’s chief state prosecutor Luisa Ortega has broken with the government of Chavez’s successor, President Nicolas Maduro, alleging erosion of democracy and rights abuses.
Additional reporting by Girish Gupta; Editing by Clarence Fernandez