Trump says Venezuela has freed American missionary Josh Holt

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Venezuelan government on Saturday released an American, Josh Holt, whom it has held since 2016 on weapons charges, U.S. President Donald Trump and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch said in separate posts on Twitter.

Holt, a Mormon missionary from Utah, was returning to the United States and expected to arrive in Washington on Saturday evening, Trump said in a tweet that described Holt as “the American hostage”. Hatch issued a statement saying the release was the culmination of two years of hard work and that Holt’s wife Thamy would be accompanying him home.

“Over the past two years I’ve worked with two presidential administrations, countless diplomatic contacts, ambassadors all over the world, a network of contacts in Venezuela and President Maduro himself, and I could not be more honored to be able to reunite Josh with his sweet, long-suffering family,” Hatch said in a statement.

Holt’s mother Laurie did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The news of Holt’s release came a day after Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met in Caracas with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The pair met less than a week after Maduro won re-election in a vote that the United States did not recognize.

Venezuelan authorities arrested Holt in June 2016 while he was in Venezuela for his wedding. His family says he was framed.

Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Chizu Nomiyama

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