A Mormon Missionary Held in a Venezuelan Prison Is Coming Home

American Citizen Held in Venezuela Released, Trump Announces

A Utah man jailed in Venezuela on weapons charges almost two years ago was released Saturday after a USA senator pressed for his freedom in a surprise meeting with President Nicolas Maduro.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) shared the heartwarming moment Saturday that Utah native Joshua Holt and his wife were reunited with his parents after two years of imprisonment by the Venezuelan government.

Holt, a Utah citizen, and his wife Thamy, were returning to the United States and were expected to arrive in Washington on Saturday evening, Trump tweeted.

"Good news about the release of the American hostage from Venezuela", President Donald Trump said via Twitter. "The great people of Utah are Celebrating!"

Mr Holt, now 26, set out for the South American country in June 2016 to marry a woman he met online while he was looking for Spanish-speaking Mormons who could help him improve his Spanish.

Trump later hosted the family in the Oval Office and told Holt he was "brave" and "went through a lot".

"We're home", tweeted United States Senator Bob Corker, whose meeting in Caracas Friday with President Nicolas Maduro paved the way for the release of Joshua Holt and Thamara Caleno.

The Utah senator added: "I could not be more honored to be able to reunite Josh with his sweet, long-suffering family in Riverton". The family was greeted that night at the White House by President Donald Trump.

Holt's Venezuelan wife, Thamara, was arrested alongside him, but was also freed on Saturday and brought to the USA with her daughter. Holt, who had been imprisoned in Venezuela for two years, was released following diplomat efforts by the Trump and Obama administrations.

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Venezuelan state television showed Corker and Maduro shaking hands Friday, before holding a closed door meeting at the presidential palace.

"I'm just overwhelmed with gratitude for you guys, for everything that you've done", Holt said.

Holt, who'd been held in the El Helicoide intelligence agency prison, published a Facebook video earlier this month pleading for help and claiming his life was in danger.

Trump told Holt that he had been "incredibly brave" to endure nearly two years in a Venezuelan prison.

"I'm just overwhelmed with gratitude for you guys, for everything that you've done", Holt said, noting it was "very, very hard two years".

The State Department has called the weapons charges "questionable".

The release of Joshua Holt does not change United States policy, and will continue to use all available tools and options to pressure the Maduro regime to abide by democratic norms, and will continue to build a broad global coalition of like-minded partners who want to see the return of democracy to the people of Venezuela.

A Mormon missionary, Holt, now 26, had traveled to Venezuela in 2016 to marry a fellow Mormon.

The US also refuses to recognise Maduro's re-election as president in a vote last week that was largely boycotted by the opposition.

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