Bolivian court releases Ostreicher on bail

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A Bolivian court released on bail New York businessman Jacob Ostreicher, who has been jailed without charges for 18 months, according to the U.S. lawmakers who led the calls for his release.

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“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, in a statement issued Tuesday.  

In the same statement, Smith praised the authorities for the move, as well as for arresting a number of figures alleged to have kept Ostreicher imprisoned in order to extract from him bribes.

“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, N.Y., 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.”

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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