New York businessman Jacob Ostreicher, who has been jailed in Bolivia without charges for 18 months, has been released on bail, according to U.S. lawmakers who led calls for his release.
"While a welcome step, granting Jacob bail is long overdue,” said Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), who recently joined Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) in traveling to Bolivia to make Ostreicher's case.
A Bolivian court was behind Ostreicher's release, ordering him to post bail of more than $14,000 and remain under house arrest.
Smith praised Bolivian authorities for the move, as well as for arresting a number of people who allegedly kept Ostreicher imprisoned in order to extract bribes from him.
"His life remains at risk every day that he remains in Bolivia, due to credible death threats against him," said Smith, the co-chairman of a U.S. congressional subcommittee that oversees international human rights. "I urgently call on the Bolivian judicial system to act swiftly to completely exonerate Jacob of the baseless accusations against him and grant him his freedom."
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 had sunk $25 million into growing rice in lush 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.
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