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Nauert: State Dept. demands access to American held captive 17 months in Venezuela

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A State Department spokeswoman released an update on Joshua Holt, a 25-year-old Utahan who has been detained in Venezuela nearly a year and a half.

“Dec. 12, U.S. citizen Joshua Holt was charged after more than 17 months of detention,” said Heather Nauert, who before joining the administration was a reporter and presenter for Fox News.

U.S. Embassy personnel were not permitted to attend Holt’s court hearing, she said.

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“The United States remains extremely concerned for Mr. Holt’s health and welfare, which continues to deteriorate under the custody of SEBIN, the Venezuelan intelligence agency,” she said.

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The saga began in early 2016 when Holt, a Mormon, traveled to Venezuela to marry a fellow Mormon Thamara Candelo, whom he met on the internet. Shortly after his arrival, the couple was arrested and Holt was accused of stockpiling weapons.

After rescheduling the preliminary hearing five times, the Venezuelan court finally ordered Holt to stand trial on ambiguous weapons charges, said Holt’s attorney Carlos Trujillo, Holt’s Salt Lake City-based attorney, according to a report in the Salt Lake City Tribune.

Trujillo said that the motive for the Venezuelan government’s detainment of Holt may be using Holt as a bargaining chip after theU.S. leveled economic sanctions against the nation.

Two nephews of Venezuelan First Lady Cilia Flores were also recently sentenced to 18 years in federal prison for drug trafficking, the lawyer said.

In her statement, Nauert said the Venezuelan government must grant immediate consular access to Holt, and reminded the Venezuelan government that pursuant to its international obligations, Venezuela must grant Holt fair trial guarantees.

Holt’s life should not be jeopardized under SEBIN’s custody, she said.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, (R.-Utah), also posted an update on Holt’s situation to his to his Facebook page:

Our beloved Holt family in Riverton continues to get bad news out of Venezuela. As we keep Josh and his family in our prayers, I’ve called on the President, Vice President, State Department, and UN Delegation to redouble our efforts to bring Josh home, and I’ve had my staff working to explore new avenues to work with the Venezuelan government and their neighbors to secure Josh’s release on humanitarian grounds.

We will not give up. #JusticeForJosh

 

Big League National Security

“I Needed to do Something:” Army Soldier Stops Armed Gunman on Kansas/Missouri Bridge

Master Sergeant David Royer likely saved lives.

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A U.S. Army soldier driving across a bridge between Kansas and Missouri likely saved lives when he neutralized an armed, active shooter with his vehicle on Wednesday.

Leavenworth, Kansas Police Chief Patrick Kitchens said that Master Sergeant David Royer’s actions on the Centennial Bridge were “absolutely heroic.

Royer, who is stationed at Fort Leavenworth, recounted the incident during a press conference outside the installation on Thursday. He had been driving across the bridge when he saw a man firing a rifle at oncoming traffic in a random fashion. Police initially suspected that the man was engaging in road-rage style violence, but authorities now believe the unnamed man was indiscriminately firing upon vehicles crossing the bridge.

As the investigation unfolded, we learned this was an active shooter with multiple weapons on the bridge firing at cars with no particular association,” recounted the police chief.

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I knew people’s lives were in danger. I needed to do something. My military training kicked in. So, I took action as I saw appropriate, and I just knew I had to do something,” stated Royer during his remarks at Leavenworth on Thursday.

Royer states that he rammed into the shooter with his truck, pinning the gunman under his vehicle. The man wasn’t killed, and Kansas authorities are expected to announce criminal charges against the suspect within a few days.

Multiple cars had been shot by the gunman, and one individual- also an active-duty soldier at Fort Leavenworth- was injured. Royer is comparing the incident to some of his military experiences in high-stress environments, including a service assignment to Guatanamo Bay earlier in his career.

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