Josh Holt, a Utahn who has been detained in Venezuela for nearly a year and a half, is in “dire” need of medical attention, and according to his lawyer, has been blocked from getting sufficient treatment.
Holt has been sick with an infection for “three or four months,” said his Salt Lake City-based lawyer, Carlos Trujillo. In October, a judge ordered that Holt be transferred to a medical facility. But according to Trujillo, the prison directors have blocked that transfer.
Instead, Holt has received emergency medical attention “two or three” times in the past few months. Medical professionals have stabilized Holt with an IV, and then left him in the prison, Trujillo said.
“Literally, they’re just keeping him alive,” he said.
In a recording Trujillo obtained on Monday, a beleaguered Holt, breathing heavily, said he’d been throwing up all night.
“Guys, I don’t feel very good ... I’m very dizzy and I can’t think and my stomach hurts,” he said. “Super bad. I don’t know what to do. I’ve never felt like this before.”
Holt has been held in Venezuela since June 2016, when he and his wife, Thamara “Thamy” Caleno, were arrested on an accusation of illegally possessing weapons, charges his family has said are false.
His wife also is being held in prison. And she also is not getting medical attention for problems she’s been having with her shoulder, Trujillo said. He didn’t know the specifics of the shoulder injury.
“Josh Holt is in a delicate state and therefore we ask them again that Venezuela releases him under humanitarian grounds immediately or in the alternative that our leaders in the US government double their efforts in bringing him home before [it] is too late,” his family wrote in a statement released on Monday.
In an emailed statement, Sen. Orrin Hatch called on Venezuelan officials to comply with the court order.
“It’s beyond inhumane to deny a court order allowing Josh to receive the urgent medical care he needs,” according to Hatch’s office, which has been trying to get Holt released for more than a year.
Holt’s preliminary hearing had been rescheduled five times in the past year, according to Trujillo, before it was held in October. The judge hasn’t yet issued a ruling.
Holt has another hearing scheduled for Tuesday, an appointment Trujillo is not confident will happen.
“Since October, [the court has] been cancelling over and over, really without explanation at this point,” Trujillo said. “That’s what we’re expecting to happen tomorrow again.”
Holt’s health has been declining since July, when he suffered a concussion and a possible back fracture when he fell 6 to 8 feet from his bunk, according to Trujillo.
In mid-July, Trujillo requested a conditional release for Holt and his wife, which, if granted, would allow the couple to be on house arrest in Venezuela while they await trial. The judge has not yet ruled on the request.
Holt traveled to Venezuela to marry Caleno, whom he met online while looking for someone to practice Spanish with. He had learned the language while serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Washington state.
The couple married on June 16, 2016, and planned to return to Utah once Caleno obtained a visa, but they were arrested on accusations that Holt was a spy and had a gun and grenade in Caleno’s apartment.