Since President Donald Trump took office, his administration has secured the release of 17 prisoners foreign governments had detained.
“We’ve had 17 released, and we’re very proud of that record. Very proud. And we have others coming,” Trump said Saturday evening as he welcomed home Joshua Holt, an American citizen who had been detained in Venezuela for two years without trial. (RELATED: Trump Spotlights 17 Americans Released From Overseas Prisons Since Beginning Of Administration)
Unlike his predecessor, the president has managed to bring these prisoners home without freeing terrorists or paying millions of dollars in suspected ransom payments.
Sabrina De Sousa:Portuguese-American Sabrina De Sousa, a former CIA agent, was arrested and detained in Portugal in 2015 after being convicted in absentia in 2009 of kidnapping. De Sousa was sentenced to four years in prison for her alleged involvement in the kidnapping of radical Muslim cleric Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, in Milan, Italy, in 2003. Although De Sousa argued she played no part in the abduction, failed appeals had her on the fast track to becoming the first American intelligence official to serve jail time for a role in former President George W. Bush’s administration’s “War on Terror.”
But before she could be extradited to Italy in February 2017 to serve her sentence, Trump’s administration intervened on her behalf, securing a pardon and De Sousa’s freedom in March of the same year.
Aya Hijazi and her husband Mohamed Hassanein:During a period of particular unrest in Egypt, authorities raided a non-governmental organization dedicated to helping street children in 2014 and arrested Egyptian-American Aya Hijazi, her husband and five other activists on false charges of human trafficking, kidnapping and rape.
Not long after Trump met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in April 2017, an Egyptian court cleared all seven detainees of all charges. The president personally sent a U.S. government plane to Cairo to retrieve Hijazi and her husband, and he greeted them both at the White House upon their long-awaited return to the U.S. (RELATED: Obama Could Never Get An American Aid Worker Released. Through Quiet Negotiation And A Change In Tactic, Trump Freed Her)
China arrested Texas businesswoman Sandy Phan-Gillis in 2015 on charges of espionage and held her for two years without a public trial. Her husband, Jeff Gillis, insisted the allegations were “absolutely false.” He pleaded with the Obama administration to bring her home. While the administration pressed Beijing on the issue, it was ultimately unable to secure her release.
Following a meeting between former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Chinese leadership in March 2017 and a summit between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mar-a-Lago in April 2018, Phan-Gillis was finally freed from prison.
China sentenced her to three and a half years in prison but deported her before she could serve any additional jail time.
Otto Warmbier:University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier was arrested for allegedly pilfering a propaganda poster while on a tour of North Korea in January 2016. The young student was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for his crimes at a tearful show trial in March that same year.
Through a series of back-channel negotiations with Pyongyang, Trump’s administration managed to secure Warmbier’s release in June 2017. But his return home was bitter sweet, as the Cincinnati native returned in a coma after having suffered a traumatic brain injury — details of which remain unclear. Warmbier passed away just one week after his release. (RELATED: Comatose American College Student Released By North Korea Has Died)
Both the president and the Warmbier Family have suggested the outcome might have been different if the previous administration had acted more quickly to save the now-deceased student.
Joshua Boyle, Caitlan Coleman and their three children:
Canadian-American couple Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman were kidnapped in 2012 while backpacking through Afghanistan and held captive by the Haqqani network for five years. The Haqqani network, an offshoot of the Taliban, demanded the release of prisoners in exchange for the hostages — a demand that was not met. Coleman had three children during her and her husband’s time in captivity.
In October 2017, the U.S. pressured Pakistan into rescuing the family after they were spotted near the border. Pakistani authorities were able to recover the five captives, and the family returned to North America last fall.
Numerous questions continue to surround the captives, particularly Boyle.
UCLA basketball players LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill:During a team trip to Hangzhou, China, in November 2017, three players — Li Angelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill — were arrested and detained for shoplifting at a local Louis Vuitton department store, stealing sunglasses. For their alleged crimes, the players were reportedly facing up to 10 years in Chinese prison, but Trump intervened. During the president’s first state visit to China, Trump brought up the issue in talks with Chinese President Xi, who promised to look into the situation.
The Chinese leader assured Trump the three players would be “treated fairly and expeditiously,” and the three players were freed shortly thereafter.
“I would like to thank President Trump and the United States government for the help they provided,” Ball said in a statement upon his return to the U.S. “I am grateful to be back home, and I will never make a mistake like this again. I am extremely sorry for those that I let down.” (RELATED: UCLA Basketball Players Thank Trump)
Kim Dong-Chul, Kim Hak-Song and Kim Sang-Duk:Kim Dong-Chul, a businessman and purported Christian missionary, was arrested in North Korea in 2015 on charges of espionage. He was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor for his crimes. Kim Hak-Song and Kim Sang-Duk were professors at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology before they were arrested in May and April 2017 respectively for unspecified hostile acts.
Trump’s administration secured the release of these three prisoners during Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s second trip to North Korea in early May. The three men received a heroes welcome when they returned home. (RELATED: Trump: Pompeo Secures Release Of American Hostages In North Korea)
Joshua Holt:Joshua Holt, a 26-year-old Utah native, and his Venezuelan wife, Thamy, along with their daughter, returned to the U.S. Saturday evening for a tearful reunion with Holt’s mother and father. Holt was arrested on charges of espionage when he traveled to Venezuela in June 2016 to marry Thamy.
President Trump announced his administration had secured Holt’s release Saturday morning. (RELATED: American Held Prisoner In Venezuela Finally Reunited With His Family)
More On The Way…
“We have others coming. We’re in the midst of some very big negotiations to get others out. In most cases, they’re Americans, but we can try and help other countries too, where there’s injustice. So we’ve been working very hard on it,” Trump said Saturday evening, making references to four Americans held captive in Iran and a North Carolina pastor held hostage in Turkey.
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