The Trump administration has negotiated the release of 17 Americans who have been detained or held hostage in foreign countries since the president first came to office last year.
On Saturday night at the White House, President Trump welcomed Joshua Holt, the latest American detainee who was released from a Venezuelan prison after talks with Trump administration officials and his family.
Holt had been imprisoned in the South American country since the summer of 2016 after he traveled there to initially meet his future wife Thamara Candelo, but both were jailed on what human rights groups say were essentially made up charges. (RELATED: Trump Welcomes Home American Held Prisoner In Venezuela For Two Years)
“So we’ve had 17 prisoners released during the Trump administration. Most people don’t know that. You remember Aya. We called the President of Egypt, and he released her,” Trump said, referring to Aya Hijazi, the American aid worker released back in April 2017 from an Egyptian prison.
Trump continued, “She was there for a long time — three years. And the previous administration was unable to get her out. A fantastic young woman. And she was released. As you know, in North Korea, we just had a very great success. We have three wonderful people — Americans — that were released just recently. And they’re now home, safe with their families.”
He added, “And you were a tough one, I have to tell you. That was a tough situation. But we’ve had 17 released, and we’re very proud of that record. Very proud. And 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.”
Holt’s release from Venezuela comes weeks after North Korea released three imprisoned Americans amid talks of a planned summit between both Koreas and the United States.
Since the death of Otto Warmbier, an American who was held hostage in North Korea, President Trump told Time Magazine in 2017 how he planned to deal with foreign nations who unjustly held American citizens in their prisons.
“The United States condemns hostage takers and nations that detain our citizens without just cause or due process. My Administration is greatly increasing efforts to bring home all Americans unjustly detained abroad,” he said, later adding that the difference between his administration and President Obama’s on this issue is that “We are aggressively pursuing the release of our people. We will leave no lawful tool, partnership or recovery option off the table.”
At least four Americans are presently imprisoned in Iran, and North Carolina pastor Andrew Brunson is jailed in Turkey. The administration has already placed pressure on Turkey to release Brunson.
Last month, the Associated Press reported the administration is looking at disciplinary “consequences” if Turkey, a NATO ally, does not dismiss the charges or acquit Brunson. The pastor stands accused of espionage and aiding terrorist organizations, which Wess Mitchell, the senior U.S. diplomat for Europe, called “laughable.”
“The Turks claim to have a high standard of justice, the indictment suggests otherwise,” Mitchell testified to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “This is clearly an innocent man. We are watching to see if the Turks adhere to their stated standards of justice. If that does not happen, we are considering options for consequences.”