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Pleas for Orthodox Jewish American Detained in Bolivia

The Orthodox Jewish community has been rallying support for Jacob Ostreicher, a Jewish American who is being detained in a Bolivian prison.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 5/31/2012, 11:06 AM

Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Reuters

The Orthodox Jewish community has been attempting to rally support for Jacob Ostreicher, a Jewish American citizen who is being detained in a Bolivian prison on suspicion of money laundering.

The 53-year-old flooring contractor from Brooklyn was arrested by Bolivian authorities in 2011 and is accused of laundering drug money after he started a rice cultivation business in the country.

Ostreicher, who is being held without formal charges being placed against him, denies any wrongdoing and said he showed the judge hundreds of documents to prove that the money had come from legitimate sources. 

He told ABC News that he is trapped in a “nightmare” and that despite his cooperation with authorities, was still placed under arrest.  

I am “absolutely 100 percent innocent,” he claimed. 

Ostreicher’s wife, Miriam Ungar, has decided to publicly press for his release through an online petition, asking the White House to intervene on his behalf.

“He is being held without a shred of evidence,” the petition reads. “On Sept. 23, 2011, the judge ordered his release based on evidence submitted by the defense; just days later the same judge reversed his decision and was promoted. A new judge resigned after five scheduled hearings.”

“In your capacity as President of the U.S., we urge you to exercise the powers vested in you to see to it that Jacob does not spend another day in this archaic prison. With all avenues having been exhausted, it is up to you, Mr. President, to make sure an innocent man walks free,” the petition reads.

Ungar said the White House requires petitions to receive 25,000 online signatures within 30 days in order for them to be brought to the president’s attention.

In mid-April, Ostreicher reportedly started a hunger strike to draw attention to his case. 

Congressional hopeful Karen Harrington issued a statement saying, “U.S. Citizen Jacob Ostreicher has been incarcerated in a Bolivian prison and been accused of money laundering but has not been charged with any crime.  Fortunately for Ostreicher, his family’s love and commitment to him in addition to his deep ties within his Orthodox Jewish community have helped him cope with this unfortunate circumstance.”

“But while the U.S. State Department says that it is closely watching his situation, the Obama administration has yet to react to his wrongful incarceration,” the statement continued.

Ostreicher's detention comes at a low point in U.S.-Bolivian relations. Under leftist President Evo Morales, the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia was expelled in 2008 in a diplomatic row.