Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) participated in a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing on Human Rights Concerns in Bolivia: The Case of American Jacob Ostreicher. Nadler has previously written letters calling for U.S. intervention in the case and due process rights for Mr. Ostreicher, who is a constituent of the Congressman's.
"It is important for everyone to remember our goal -- making sure Mr. Ostreicher is provided fair treatment and basic due process," said Nadler. "They must be made to understand that we will not stand by and simply accept the treatment that Mr. Ostreicher has received to date. Pressure must continue to be applied to the Bolivian government and its justice system to get this man and his family out of the terrible limbo they are in by ordering his speedy trial, and a fair opportunity to be free on bail during this process."
Below is Nadler's complete opening statement, as prepared:
"Thank you, Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Bass. I appreciate you holding this hearing today and allowing me to participate.
"I am here today out of great concern for my constituent, Jacob Ostreicher. Like me, Mr. Ostreicher's family, friends, and his community in Brooklyn are very concerned about his situation.
"As you know, in June 2011, Mr. Ostreicher was arrested in Bolivia on allegations of money laundering and associating with criminal organizations. More than a year later, he is still being held in a Bolivian jail with no formal charges having been filed against him, despite his insistence that he is innocent.
"Mr. Ostreicher is being held in a private cell in the Palmasola Prison, a facility that is notoriously violent, according to reports. He has been active in advocating for his cause through the news media, and several media reports regarding his situation have been released this year.
"I understand that on May 25, Mr. Ostreicher was given the threat of a "disciplinary penalty' by prison authorities for reports that were released about the conditions of the prison in media stories about his case that fostered "discontent among the prison population,' as the penalty document puts it. The penalty could result in his movement to a more dangerous part of the prison for 15 days, and it potentially could be used against him in an upcoming hearing.
"This penalty has not yet been carried out, and Mr. Ostreicher's lawyer is appealing it. The Bolivian authorities must know that the carrying out of this penalty will not be acceptable.
"Since he was first imprisoned, I have been in frequent contact with the State Department about the status of Mr. Ostreicher's case and his condition. I want to thank the State Department for its work thus far in communicating with the Bolivian government regarding his situation and to express the frustration of Mr. Ostreicher and our entire government regarding his treatment. That work must continue until we see positive results.
"Last month, after meeting Mr. Ostreicher's wife, Miriam, I wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking for help communicating to the Bolivian government the necessity of giving Mr. Ostreicher a reasonable opportunity to post bail and access to a swift trial. I also have written a letter along with my colleagues in the House and Senate to the Bolivian government, asking for the same.
"I understand that Bolivian law has its own standards that allow a prisoner to be held for 18 months on preliminary charges in the pre-trial phase, if there is a reasonable basis to believe that he or she committed a crime. However, holding someone for this long without a fair trial -- or at the very least the opportunity for bail --violates basic standards of fairness and human rights.
"Mr. Ostreicher is entitled to a fair trial, to see the evidence against him, to have the opportunity to present evidence in his own behalf, and to have that case heard promptly, and impartially. Our job will not be done until he has been accorded a full measure of the simple justice to which we are all entitled.
"I especially am concerned about the frequent postponement of hearings in this case. Out of 15 judicial hearings scheduled for Mr. Ostreicher, only three have actually taken place. In addition, after a judge ordered Mr. Ostreicher free on bail in September, he later reversed that decision. Mr. Ostreicher has not been given another opportunity to post bail.
"A hearing regarding Mr. Ostreicher's eligibility for bail is currently scheduled for June 11. I am here today in part to make sure the Bolivian government is aware that our government at a high level is calling for due process of law and a swift and fair trial for Mr. Ostreicher.
"Right now, Mr. Ostreicher is on a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment. As a result he is physically weak and his family is concerned about his health. His health and safety must continue to be monitored.
"We need everyone -- Members of Congress, officials in the Executive Branch, and other interested parties -- to keep their eyes on that prize and keep the pressure on the Bolivian government. It is important for everyone to remember our goal -- making sure Mr. Ostreicher is provided fair treatment and basic due process. They must be made to understand that we will not stand by and simply accept the treatment that Mr. Ostreicher has received to date. Pressure must continue to be applied to the Bolivian government and its justice system to get this man and his family out of the terrible limbo they are in by ordering his speedy trial, and a fair opportunity to be free on bail during this process.
"I hope this hearing will serve to do just that -- keep the pressure on the Bolivian government and demonstrate how important Mr. Ostreicher and his situation are to important U.S. government officials. Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Bass, again I want to thank both of you for holding this hearing and allowing me to take part."