WASHINGTON (JTA) — Two members of Congress are in Bolivia to press for the release of an American Jewish businessman who has been jailed there without charges for 18 months.
Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) arrived this week to seek the release of Jacob Ostreicher, a haredi Orthodox father of five and grandfather of 11 from Brooklyn, N.Y., who has been held in Bolivia without formal charges and bail since June 2011.
In a release Thursday, Smith, who has led congressional efforts to win Ostreicher’s release, said that according to Bolivian law, persons may be held without charges for no longer than 18 months.
Last month, authorities arrested seven people, including top government officials, for attempted extortion in the case.
Ostreicher has said since his arrest that corrupt Bolivian officials desired to keep him in jail in order to sell for their own profit the 18,000 metric tons of rice they confiscated from him and to extort him for money in exchange for promises to help get him released.