State Department calls for immediate release of Pocatello native held in Venezuela prison

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WASHINGTON — State Department officials are calling for the immediate release of Josh Holt, a Pocatello native who has been held in a Venezuelan prison for a year and a half.

The United States government expressed concern about Holt’s health Thursday.

“We remain extremely concerned for his health and his well-being,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, according to Reuters. “The decline in his health has been further exacerbated by the Venezuelan authorities’ delays in providing necessary medical treatment. Sometimes they have blocked his care altogether.”

Holt, a former missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, traveled to the South American country to get married to a woman he met online and to get visas for her children. He is accused of spying and possessing weapons in an alleged plot against President Nicolas Maduro and was arrested in June 2016. Since then, government officials have not brought Holt to scheduled court appearances.

KSL reports his wife, Theresa Calena, was also arrested and held in Caracas.

His family has expressed concern about his health and prison conditions before.

In October of last year, his mother, Laurie Holt, of Utah, said guards humiliated her son by making him take off his clothing and do jumping jacks and squats. And at that time, Holt told his mother-in-law he had severe diarrhea and blood in his urine.

“He’s lost so much weight. He’s so skinny and little,” Laurie Holt said. “Then to see him in handcuffs was — it’s like my baby boy, and what are they doing to him? He doesn’t deserve this.”

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