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Ostreicher: Bolivia’s Jewish community was ‘disappointing’

(JTA) — New York businessman Jacob Ostreicher said that the reaction to his jailing by Bolivia’s Jewish community was "quite disappointing."

Ostreicher, who had been jailed in Bolivia without charges for 18 months, said in a media interview that he believes the country’s Jewish community is afraid of the government.

"To be honest with you, the Jewish community in Bolivia was quite disappointing," Ostreicher told EJU-Monitoring News in Bolivia. "When I got entangled in this issue I approached them, they promised everything to my wife but they didn’t do much. Now I understand why, they were afraid of the government. Currently, I understand a little more about the system, I know that they were afraid, and rightfully so. But the Jewish community in the world stepped up to support me."

Earlier this month, Ostreicher was released from jail to house arrest and was ordered to post bail of more than $14,000.

He said that there "is not enough time to describe the [poor] condition of the prison."

Ostreicher, a haredi Orthodox father of five and grandfather of 11 from Brooklyn, was arrested in June 2011 by Bolivian police after it was alleged that he did business with “people wanted in their countries because of links with drug trafficking and money laundering.” He still has not been charged.

Ostreicher belonged to a group of investors who sunk $25 million into growing rice in eastern Bolivia. He has said that his arrest stems from a conspiracy by Bolivian officials to rob him and his businesses.

Last month, authorities arrested seven people, including top government officials, for attempted extortion of Ostreicher.

Ostreicher told EJU that he hopes his high-profile imprisonment will have an impact.

"I hope that the fact that I am American, won’t make it stop as soon as I go back to my country, I hope it won’t be like nothing has happened," he said. "All my suffering would not have been in vain if I could make a difference in the future of this country, to help hundreds, maybe thousands of people, making a change for future generations. If that’s the case my suffering will have been a small payment and will have been worthwhile. I hope this is not just about me, but about the whole justice system in Bolivia."

Ostreicher credited American actor Sean Penn, who took up his case with the Bolivian government, with effecting his release. Ostreicher said that people continue to call him and congratulate him for being released from prison, but he pointed out that "I am still not a free man."

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