clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Timeline: Riverton man and former Mormon missionary marks one year in Venezuelan prison

Today marks exactly one year since Josh Holt, a 25-year-old man from Riverton, Utah, was imprisoned in Venezuela while on a honeymoon with his wife. In that year, Josh’s family and state officials have worked tirelessly to secure his release.

Here is a look at the events that have happened in the past year:

June 11, 2016: Twenty-four-year-old Josh Holt traveled to Venezuela and married his fiancee Thamy Caleño. They had met online in January several days after Holt returned home from his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The couple planned to wait for Caleño's visa before returning to the U.S. — a plan that made the Holt family very nervous.

"We were just like, 'Absolutely not, you cannot go there. It's dangerous.' We've seen everything on the news, and he just, he didn't listen," Holt's mother said.

June 30, 2016: Holt was followed by Venezuelan police to his home, where the police allegedly discovered assault rifles and other military items. Holt was then arrested, under suspicion of conspiring against the Venezuelan government. His wife was jailed as an accomplice.

July 3, 2016: The Holt family launched a GoFundMe account under #JusticeforJosh to raise funds for legal fees.

When explaining Josh’s circumstances on the GoFundMe website, Holt's sister, Jenna, wrote, "Due to the history of political prisoners being used as propaganda to promote the Venezuelan government's ideals,and knowing Josh's character, capacity to do good, and inability to do harm, we are thoroughly convinced that the evidence was planted and the process was rigged. He has never published nor expressed any desire to conspire against the Venezuelan government. It is disgusting that the Venezuelan government has chosen to use him as a form of propaganda."

July 6, 2016: The Holt family announced that they had not heard from their son since the week prior. They had received a Facebook message from Holt’s wife’s mother that stated Holt and Caleño were in prison. They believed he was framed and accused of being a U.S. spy but knew little else about his situation.

July 12, 2016: Representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas met with Josh in prison. Details of the meeting were not made available. At the time, Venezuela was currently holding 11 other American citizens.

July 20, 2016: Venezuelan Interior Minister Gustavo Gonzalez presented the most-extensive public remarks by a Venezuelan official on Josh Holt’s case since Holt's arrest.

Gonzalez described Holt as a "trained gunman" with a pilot's license. He questioned the legality of the couple’s marriage and suggested Holt’s case was linked to other attempts by the U.S. to undermine President Nicolas Maduro's rule.

July 30, 2016: The Holt family held a rally for Josh Holt at the Utah state capitol, calling for his release.

Aug. 31, 2016: Rep. Mia Love and Sen. Orrin Hatch, both R-Utah, came out in support of Holt’s release, saying they were doing everything they could to bring him home.

Sept. 7, 2016: The Holt family reported Holt’s health was failing, saying he had suffered from internal bleeding, scabies, kidney stones and a several bouts of either pneumonia or bronchitis.

Sept. 26, 2016: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to discuss Josh Holt’s case. Kerry called on Venezuela to respect due process and human rights, but details of the conversation were not released. Holt had then been jailed for three months.

Oct. 11, 2016: Holt’s lawyer reported he was being tortured by Venezuelan prison guards, forcing him to strip naked in a hallway and perform exercises in violation of international agreements on the treatment of prisoners.

Nov. 8, 2016: Holt attended court in Caracas, Venezuela, but his hearing was pushed back yet again, after being delayed multiple times, his attorney said.

Jan. 23, 2017: Holt’s mother, Laurie Holt, published a YouTube video criticizing the efforts of former President Barack Obama's Cabinet to get her son out of Venezuela. She called on President Donald Trump to work more diligently to secure Josh Holt’s release.

April 29, 2017: Laurie Holt announced she was feeling more hopeful her son would be released after she met with some of Utah's congressional delegation and White House staff that week.

"You don't get in to the White House every day. That was a big step in opening doors to help us get Josh," she said.

June 28, 2017: Sen. Orrin Hatch published a YouTube video in anticipation of the one-year anniversary of Josh Holt’s arrest. Hatch reminded Holt and his family that “we are still anxiously engaged in the fight for his freedom.” Hatch also stated he is confident efforts to secure Holt's release will pay off in time. In the meantime, he urged Utahns and all Americans to keep the Holt family in their prayers.