Venezuela frees American couple facing espionage charges

CARACAS – Venezuelan Minister of Communications Jorge Rodriguez announced Saturday that the country’s judiciary had freed American citizen Joshua Holt and his wife, who had been arrested and charged with espionage and illegally carrying weapons.

Rodriguez said that the measure was granted after the Venezuelan government met with a congressional delegation from the United States, which asked for the pair to be freed.

The minister said that this move was part of the efforts by President Nicolas Maduro to show he was ready to hold dialogues to ensure peace and stability in the country.

Holt, 24, is a U.S. citizen and was arrested by Venezuelan intelligence services on June 30, 2016, along with his wife, Tamara Belen Caleno.

The former Venezuelan minister of the interior and justice, Gustavo Gonzalez Lopez, declared at the time that Holt and Caleno were found in possession of an AK-47 assault rifle, a fake M4 rifle, an MK2 grenade, ammunition and espionage equipment.

He added that Holt had a pilot license as well as expert knowledge in the handling of weapons and electronic surveillance equipment.

However, the United States maintained that Holt was held for almost two years without trial.

Maduro ordered the release after meeting with Republican U.S. Senator Bob Corker in Caracas.

Rodriguez said Maduro would “make every effort to maintain a respectful dialogue … to avoid aggressions which Venezuela … has been submitted to.”