American jailed in Venezuela without trial pleads for help amid prison riot


Today, I learned Josh Holt was enduring a riot situation in his Venezuelan jail.

Prisoners started a riot that was soon taken over by the few inmates who claim to have been imprisoned on political charges, including Daniel Ceballos and Lorent Saleh, reported Eligio Rojas, journalist for Ultimas Noticias. "They say they're doing things, but I'm still here", Holt said. He said tear gas and weapons had been fired at detainees but they were holding out to demand freedom.

Holt, 26, has been locked in the prison since June 2016, when he and his wife, Thamara "Thamy" Caleno, were arrested on suspicion of illegally possessing weapons.

Rights groups and Maduro opponents have said several hundred political prisoners were unfairly jailed, while Maduro has said all jailed activists were being held on legitimate charges of violence and subversion.

There was no official information on the incident, but in videos posted on social media men identifying themselves as prisoners said they had taken over the headquarters of intelligence agency Sebin, known as the Helicoide, where hundreds of people are held.

"They're outside", he says, "They're trying to break in". They are saying that they want to kill me.

Trujillo declined to discuss how Holt was posting videos on his Facebook page, saying Holt's safety was in jeopardy and he didn't want to release any information that may harm him.

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Love said she had reached out to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the White House and the National Security Council on Holt's behalf, according to a statement from her office.

Loud voices outside Holt's cell can be heard in both videos.

"The Sebin has told me that 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", Mr Holt said in a written message, referring to the Republican senator from Florida who has accused Mr Maduro of keeping Mr Holt as a "hostage" to extract concessions from the US.

In another, a shirtless youth runs down a narrow hallway and knocks out an overhead light with a long stick to shouts of encouragement by other inmates.

Venezuela's Information Ministry did not respond to a request for comment, but its chief prosecutor said in a tweet that his office was on site, without providing details.

"We are concerned about the riot at El Helicoide", Mr Robinson said in a statement, referring to the helix-shaped building where Maduro's top opponents are being held.

"Joshua Holt and other USA citizens are in danger".