Yanky Ostreicher’s Plight Raised by Congressional Human Rights Panel


smith-at-ostreicher-hearing[Video and audio below.] The plight of American businessman Yanky Ostreicher – held in Bolivia for over one year without formal charges and without bail at a dangerous prison run by inmates – was likened to “state- sponsored kidnapping” at a human rights hearing chaired yesterday by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04). The congressional panel Smith chairs gave voice to his desperate wife and daughter, and heard testimony from a former federal law enforcement agent familiar with the case.

“Today, we are undertaking the sobering task of defending the human rights of one of our own fellow citizens,” said Smith, a leading human rights advocate in the U.S. Congress. “We all must do everything we can to correct the ongoing, extreme injustice being perpetrated against Mr. Ostreicher and secure his freedom as quickly as possible. But this responsibility rests primarily with the U.S. State Department. Our embassy and consular affairs personnel are in country, have direct and regular contact with host government officials, and have access to local information that is of critical importance to the safety and security of our citizens.”

Miriam Ungar, wife of Ostreicher, the 53 year old American citizen incarcerated in Santa Cruz, Bolivia since June 2011, told Smith: “Mr. Chairman, Jacob’s human rights have been violated with every postponement, every denial and every minute he remains in that prison.”

“I was in Bolivia from June 12, 2011 until October 23, 2011,” Ungar told the committee. “I was also in Bolivia several times prior to Jacob’s arrest and have been back several times since. I am here to tell you that my husband has been incarcerated on unsubstantiated accusations for more than 12 months.”

Yanky’s daughter, Chaya Weinberger, of Lakewood, N.J., visited the Bolivian prison where her father is being held on numerous occasions and witnessed the dangerous conditions in which he lives. Her five children miss their grandfather and don’t understand why he can’t come home.

“Although I find it difficult to speak about such a personal matter, I do so for my father, Jacob Ostreicher, who is an upstanding American citizen begging his country to intervene on his behalf,” Weinberger said. “He, together with all those who love him and want him home are waiting. We are waiting to see the demonstration of liberty on which our country is based upon.  We are anticipating seeing justice emerge.  We are hoping that our country won’t let us down.”

Former FBI agent Steve Moore, known for his work on the Amanda Knox case in Italy, told the human rights panel that he was not being paid to testify here and was not in the service of the Ostreicher family. He said he has only taken up cases of people who are demonstrably innocent.

“I have taken on only those where the individual is demonstratively and provably innocent and has no other recourse,” Moore said. “Jacob Ostreicher is one of those few people. I have seen all the Bolivian’s self-described ‘evidence’ against him, and I have seen the evidence which supports his innocence. In Jacob’s case there is a complete absence of any concrete, tangible evidence on even a microscopic scale which would indicate that he had in any way shape or form participated in a crime in Bolivia. Nor is there even evidence that a crime has even been committed.

Moore stated that “In the Knox case, we had rooms full of tainted and fabricated evidence to argue. But in the Ostreicher case, we have no valid evidence to even argue against.” He also said the American’s imprisonment is effectively “state-sponsored kidnapping” and noted that even more threatening than Ostreicher’s faltering health is “a quick and unexpected death at the hands of prisoners.”

Last week Smith made a formal request of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State of Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson to personally intervene in the case of Ostreicher, who has been held without formal charges in Bolivia since June 2011. The Assistant Secretary was in Cochabamba, Bolivia for a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly from June 3-5.

Yanky, a U.S. businessman who went to Bolivia to engage in a business venture, was arrested on June 3, 2011, and remains in Palmasola prison in Santa Cruz. At least 15 judicial hearings have been scheduled in his case, but only three transpired. Although the Bolivian government has produced no evidence that Mr. Ostreicher has committed any crime, there is no indication that it is preparing to release him. Under Bolivian law, he could languish in prison for another six months on preliminary, unsubstantiated charges connected to a police investigation.

Listen to the full audio of the hearing by click below:

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  1. Why should Bolivia care about what the US thinks? We have very little influence, economically or militarily, in their neighborhood. And little countries don’t like being bossed by big countries – the US has a long history of bullying countries in South America and being terribly resented for it.

    Keep it low key and out of the public spotlight. The more obvious it is that we’re trying to pressure them, the more likely it is that they will respond with stubbornness. Quiet diplomacy can get him out – public posturing for the media will literally ch”v endanger him.

  2. Dear Mr Oldtimer
    you don’t know the Bolivia’n government. You think that “Quiet diplomacy can get him out”. This was tried till now with no results. You should read the testimony of the family and you will get a different picture. what we have to do is to keep on davening for him.

  3. #2, they tried low key pressure for the first ten months; that is why most of us have not heard about this case until now. It did not work.

  4. #5, hillary’s concern for human rights stopped at concern for women on potentially segregated buses in Israel