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President Donald Trump welcomed American citizen Josh Holt, who was released Saturday morning from prison in Venezuela after two years, to the Oval Office this evening.

Holt and his wife, accompanied by Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met with Maduro on Friday - the outcome of months of secret, backchannel talks about Holt between one of the senator's aides and close allies of the Venezuelan president. After the flight landed, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who said earlier in the day that his office helped secure Holt's release, posted a video to Twitter showing Holt reuniting with his family.

Holt told Trump: "I'm just overwhelmed with gratitude", adding his imprisonment on weapons charges had been very hard and "not really the great vacation I was looking for".

Mr Holt, now 26, set out for the South American country in June 2016 to marry a woman he met online while he was looking for Spanish-speaking Mormons who could help him improve his Spanish.

US officials say the charges against Holt were politically motivated.

Holt and his wife were freed overnight and released to the US Embassy in Caracas, according to Foro Penal, a human rights organization of lawyers and others who assist political prisoners in Venezuela.

Venezuela's communications minister, Jorge Rodriguez, said their release was a goodwill gesture that followed months of dialogue between the Maduro government and US lawmakers.

A White House official says Joshua Holt arrived Saturday evening at Washington Dulles International Airport.

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Holt's Venezuelan wife, Thamara, was arrested alongside him, but was also freed on Saturday and brought to the United States with her daughter.

Hatch announced Holt's release on Friday, characterizing it as the end result of two years of negotiations with Maduro's government. President Trump has previously dangled the threat of military force against Venezuela. Trump said in a tweet. Corker started talks with Venezuela's government earlier this year at Hatch's request, he said.

The release came two weeks after North Korea released three American hostages ahead of a planned summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un - a meeting Trump canceled but has since said could be rejuvenated. The family expressed its gratitude for all who worked for the couple's release and asked to be allowed to meet Holt and his wife before making any public statements. Hatch issued a statement shortly after the president's first tweet.

He was held for almost two years in Venezuela without going on trial.

"We hope this gesture strengthens dialogue and respect toward our independence", Venezuela's Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said of Holt's release in comments broadcast on state television. Police allegedly found a cache of weapons and evidence he was involved in the assassination plot of a Venezuelan official.

After their arrival the family says they will follow them to Riverton City Park for their surprise homecoming.

Maduro won a second six-year term in office May 20 in an election that the US and other countries have described as a "sham" after several rivals were prohibited from running.


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