Nov 26, 2012
The reports of an arrest of a Bolivian official connected to the imprisonment of American Jacob Ostreicher—who has been wrongly and unjustly held in a Bolivian prison without formal charges or bail since June 2011—are a welcome development in the case, said Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), who has been working to secure Ostreicher's freedom.
The Associated Press reported Monday
that Jose Manuel Antezana, a high level official who worked for the ministry of the presidency, was arrested yesterday and accused of receiving $9,900 from the illegal sale of 18 tons of rice confiscated from Ostreicher, a New York businessman.
“I am cautiously hopeful that this is a positive development and that Jacob is a step closer to freedom
,” said Smith, chairman of a U.S. congressional subcommittee that oversees international human rights. “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. The rule of law must prevail in Bolivia. Innocent people, especially and including Americans doing business in Bolivia, must have a path to justice. Jacob, an innocent American, must be released immediately
“This case has grown into an international embarrassment for the Morales Government that controls Bolivia
,” Smith said.
Smith has vociferously criticized the Bolivian government’s direct and deliberate interference in the court proceedings as well as its total disregard for internationally-recognized judicial standards in the Ostreicher case and the confiscation of all the assets of the rice farming business in which he was an investor.
Smith said Ostreicher has been subjected to the inhumane conditions at Palmasola prison. Smith held an Aug. 1 hearing entitled “Seeking Freedom for American Trapped in Bolivian Prison
” which produced detailed information used in the introduction of Smith’s bill “Jacob’s Law ,” which takes aim at foreign government officials responsible for violations human rights and fundamental due process procedures of imprisoned U.S. citizens by banning their travel to the U.S. Another hearing on the case was held in June
. Smith also visited Jacob in June and attended a court proceeding disrupted by the Bolivian government. He additionally met with high-ranking officials in Bolivia as he sought assistance to secure Ostreicher’s release. Smith was asked to become involved in the case by Jacob’s daughter, a Lakewood, N.J. resident who lives in Smith’s congressional district.