US prisoner in Facebook call for help as he ‘fears for life’...

US prisoner in Facebook call for help as he ‘fears for life’ amid riots in Venezuelan jail

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An American prisoner has posted videos on Facebook from inside a Venezuelan jail seized by inmates ahead of the controversial presidential election.

Joshua Holt, from Utah, is being held at the El Helicoide facility in Caracas, where riots broke out on Wednesday over a desire for speedier hearings and freedom for those who had been granted release orders.

Many of those involved are opponents of President Nicolas Maduro, who is expected to stay in office despite a crushing economic crisis and protests against his regime.

The vote, to be held on Sunday, has been branded by the EU, the US and other Latin American nations as illegitimate.

In three short clips, a visibly distraught Holt makes a plea for help from his fellow Americans, and suggests that his patience is running out with the US government after close to two years behind bars.

The 26-year-old travelled to the South American country in 2016 to marry a fellow Mormon he met online, but the couple were arrested shortly afterwards when police claimed to have found him stockpiling armaments, including an assault rifle and grenades.

Diosdado Cabello, leader of the Venezuelan Socialist Party, has accused Holt of being a US agent and the country’s top spy in Latin America, but he has not yet been put on trial.

His release has reportedly been made a “top priority” of the White House, but he remains behind bars and said in his video messages that he feared for his life.

“They’re outside,” he said of the rioting inmates.

“They’re trying to break in. They’re trying to kill me. We don’t know what to do. We need help from the people of Venezuela and also the people of the United States.”

In a statement posted to Twitter, the US Embassy in Venezuela said: “We are worried about the riot in the Helicoide.

“Joshua Holt and other American citizens are in danger. The Venezuelan government is directly responsible for the security, and we will make it responsible if something happens to them.”

The US has also threatened to impose crippling oil sanctions on Venezuela if President Maduro goes ahead with the election, with several of his main opponents having been barred from running.

In addition to protests across the country, families of the inmates at El Helicoide have also gathered outside the prison hoping for news of their well-being.

Back in March, dozens of people were killed after a fire broke out during riots at another Venezuelan prison in the northern city of Valencia.

Many Venezuelan jails are lawless and have been for decades, with overcrowding at many of the country’s penitentiaries meaning convicts are often sent to temporary pens designed for suspects facing charges and court hearings.

(c) Sky News 2018: US prisoner in Facebook call for help as he ‘fears for life’ amid riots in Venezuelan jail