Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the below remarks as prepared for delivery at Monday's committee hearing, "Advocating for American Jacob Ostreicher’s Freedom After Two Years in Bolivian Detention.”
The statement follows:
Mr. Chairman, this case is heartbreaking. The injustice visited on Jacob Ostreicher and his family is difficult to grasp fully. When Jacob was detained under murky circumstances in Bolivia in 2011, no one could have imagined that to this day he is still prevented from going home to New York.
It is now clear that Jacob was the victim of a sordid extortion ring, and multiple arrests have been made in the case. We fully expected these arrests would be followed closely by Jacob’s release, but Jacob remains in a legal spiral which prevents him from returning home. Even though the prosecution has never presented evidence against Jacob, he has been held in Bolivia now for 718 days.
We must call upon the government of President Morales to release him. The case has become Kafkaesque and has taken a terrible toll on Jacob and his family. Quite frankly, it reflects very poorly on Bolivia, its legal system and its government.
I know that President Carter is meeting today with President Morales today. I wish him the best of luck in advocating on behalf of Jacob.
I would also like to thank our witness today, Mr. Sean Penn, who has taken up this cause as his own – has visited Jacob in prison in Bolivia, and has appeared by his side in some very difficult moments. You have my gratitude for your involvement in this case, sir.
I have been able to meet with Jacob’s wife, Miriam Ungar. Ms. Unger, it is good to see you again, and I hope the next time we see each other, it will be in New York, celebrating the return of your husband.
I look forward to hearing testimony today and would like to end by expressing my appreciation to you, Mr. Chairman, for your own efforts on behalf of Jacob and for continuing to call attention to his terrible ordeal.