U.S. Congressman Chris Smith on Ostreicher’s Return: We Are Overjoyed That He Is Free; Thanks Penn

smith pennAs first confirmed on TLS yesterday, the quest for freedom for Jacob Ostreicher, an American businessman imprisoned without formal charges for 20 months in Bolivia, then detained for nearly another year, is back in the United States. Congressman Smith, who has played a leading roll in the over 2 year ordeal, is overjoyed today.

“We are overjoyed that he is free,” U.S. Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) a leading human rights advocate in Congress said today. “It has been a long, painful road for Jacob and his family. He needs time to restore his health and rebuild his life, and he needs time with his family. A great injustice has been done to him from which he may never fully recover.”

“I thank Sean Penn for his tireless work to free Jacob,” said Smith, who held a May 2013 congressional hearing at which Penn testified.

Two and a half years ago, Jacob was imprisoned on unsubstantiated allegations. Bolivian officials employed delay tactics and gave excuses for his continued detention. No evidence has been presented to indicate that Mr. Ostreicher is guilty of any crime. And there is no sign of the $27 million in assets from his rice farming operation that were confiscated.

Smith visited Ostreicher—whose daughter and grandchildren live in Smith district—twice in Bolivia. Bail was denied for over 18 months, but finally granted in December 2012. Smith visited him in June 2012 in the notorious Palmasano, a prisoner-run prison, and met with Bolivian officials to seek his release. In December 2012, Smith led a bipartisan congressional delegation to continue to press for his freedom, accompanied by Rep. Nydia Velázquez.

Smith has held three congressional hearings on the case. Ostreicher is now especially frail, due in part to his hunger strike to protest his imprisonment. During his confinement, he began treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

During the June 2012 visit, Smith met with the Bolivian Minister of Government, Carlos Romero, to detail Ostreicher’s story of injustice, including repeated court delays and complete lack of evidence against him. Romero told Smith he would investigate Jacob’s treatment. Over the past year, numerous people have been arrested in the case on charges of corruption, including the legal adviser to the Ministry of Government, Fernando Rivera. Smith personally observed Rivera interfering in the June court proceedings. Bolivian media reported that Romero stated he first became interested in the case as a result of his meeting with Smith.

Smith formally requested that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State of Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson personally intervene on Ostreicher’s behalf. After visiting with Ostreicher at the prison, Smith met with high-ranking Bolivian officials, including Minister of Government Romero, Minister of Justice Cecilia Luisa Ayllon and Vice Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Alurralde, to discuss the case.

In August of 2012, Smith held a second hearing on Ostreicher’s case entitled “Seeking Freedom for American Trapped in Bolivian Prison.” Chairman Smith also introduced “Jacob’s Law” (H.R. 1778). Jacob’s Law would prohibit the travel of foreign officials and their families’ to the United States if those officials are known to be complicit in the violation of fundamental human and due process rights of Americans imprisoned in their home country. [TLS]

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  1. Let’s also thank all those Yidden who davened for R’ Yakov daily. It feels great to take him off the matir assurim list. Halevai all the others should follow soon be”H!

  2. the name of the prison is wrong its the Palmasola prison in Bolivia that’s run by two violent gangs you can Google about the prison riots where 31 people including an 18 month old baby (yes children live in that prison with their parents) were burnt to death there in august of this year

  3. Thank you so much Congressman Chris Smith:
    Its an honor to be represented by such an outstanding fine human being that always goes the extra mile (thousands of miles) to look out for justice and for good causes
    we really appreciate it!!!!

    I wish we would be able to say that about more politicians

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