By Jacob Kamaras, JNS.org
WHILE an air of mystery surrounds the details of Jewish businessman Jacob Ostreicher’s return to US soil after being held for more than two years in Bolivia, the involvement of legislators and a high-profile celebrity in his case may shed some light on the conditions that could lead to the freedom of other high-profile Jewish prisoners, such as Jonathan Pollard (US), Alan Gross (Cuba) and Ilya Farber (Russia).
Ostreicher, a 54-year-old Brooklyn native, traveled to Bolivia in December, 2010 to oversee rice production and was arrested in June, 2011 on suspicion of money laundering and criminal organization.
No formal charges were ever brought against him, but he spent 18 months in prison before being released on bail in December, 2012, after which he remained in Bolivia under house arrest.
News of Ostreicher’s escape from Bolivia broke Dec. 16, and little was known about the circumstances of his return to America until actor Sean Penn told the Associated Press on Dec. 18 that he was with Ostreicher following a “humanitarian operation” to free the Jewish businessman “from the corrupt prosecution and imprisonment he was suffering in Bolivia.”
In May, Penn testified about Ostreicher’s situation in a hearing before the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), one of the leading advocates in Congress for Ostreicher’s release, had arranged the hearing and on Dec. 17 thanked Penn “for his tireless work to free Jacob.”
Bill Richardson — the former governor of New Mexico and US Ambassador to the UN — said in a recent conference call with reporters that, like the rest of the public, he doesn’t “have all the circumstances of [Ostreicher’s] escape” from Bolivia.
But Richardson attempted to explain the conditions that may have led to Ostreicher’s freedom, citing a meeting he had with Bolivian President Evo Morales a year ago as an example of the “quiet diplomacy” he and other key officials engaged in on Ostreicher’s behalf.
Richardson also said that in the efforts to bring about Ostreicher’s release, there was “intensive public pressure by many Jewish organizations” that was “very effective.”
“What needs to happen in successful releases is a combination of public pressure and private diplomacy,” Richardson said. “Those combinations in many cases are the roots for success.”
ON Dec. 10, Richardson wrote a letter to President Barack Obama …..
Story continues here: Will Pollard, Gross Follow in Wake of Ostreicher?