U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who has been active advocating for the release of American-Jewish contractor Jacob Ostreicher—jailed in Bolivia without formal charges or bail since June 2011—is hopeful that the arrest of Jose Manuel Antezana, a high-level official who was employed for the Bolivian ministry of the presidency, will help prove Ostreicher’s innocence.
Antezana is accused of earning more than $9,000 by illegally selling 18 tons of rice that had been confiscated from Ostreicher.
“I am cautiously hopeful that this is a positive development and that Jacob is a step closer to freedom. Justice delayed is justice denied, and justice has been delayed for a long time. Jacob has tried to work through the legal system, and has been patient beyond reasonable expectations. There simply is no evidence offered against him,” said Smith, chairman of a U.S. congressional subcommittee that oversees international human rights.
Ostreicher had traveled to Bolivia in December 2010 to oversee rice production and was arrested in June 2011 on suspicion of money laundering and criminal organization. No formal charges have ever been brought against him. On Aug. 31 this year, Ostreicher was denied bail.
U.S. Rep. Bob Turner—who represents the section of Brooklyn where Ostreicher lived—explained in an October phone interview with JNS.org that according to Bolivian law, “you have to be charged within an 18-month period.” Both Turner and Smith are among the consistent advocates for Ostreicher’s cause.
In June, Smith attended a hearing with Ostreicher during which a Bolivian judge passed the matter on to a higher court—a move “likely guaranteeing more months of delay,” according to the New Jersey legislator.