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December 18, 2012 7:04 pm

Jacob Ostreicher, Held 18 Months Without Formal Charges, Released on Bail from Bolivian Prison

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Jacob Ostreicher. Photo: Judea1/Wikimedia Commons.

American-Jewish contractor Jacob Ostreicher—jailed in Bolivia without formal charges or bail since June 2011—has been released on bail, leading congressional advocates for his freedom announced Tuesday.

Ostreicher had traveled to Bolivia in December 2010 to oversee rice production and was arrested the following year on suspicion of money laundering and criminal organization. He had been denied bail this August.

U.S. Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), who visited Ostreicher this month as part of a congressional delegation, said in a press release that Ostreicher was released Tuesday after a hearing. The legislators commended the move as a “positive development in Jacob’s case,” but re-emphasized that Ostreicher was imprisoned even though there was “no evidence of any wrongdoing” presented in his case. Smith said he was angered “that the process has dragged on for so long and Jacob and his family have had to endure so much suffering to simply get bail,” adding that Ostreicher had developed symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and “lost the entirety of the rice farming business he operated.”

Ostreicher’s release, therefore, is “only the beginning of the end,” Smith said in a statement.

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“I urgently call on the Bolivian judicial system to act swiftly to completely exonerate Jacob of the baseless accusations against him and grant him his freedom,” he said. “And I hope the Bolivian Government continues to follow through on the investigation of and charges against the real criminals in this case, so that other innocent persons do not have to suffer or continue to endure the same fate.”

“Going forward Jacob deserves the opportunity to clear his name,” Velazquez said in a statement. “He should receive either an immediate, fair trial or, failing that, be released to his family.”

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