A group of American oil executives known as the "Citgo 6" have been found guilty of corruption in Venezuela, three years after being arrested in the socialist nation shortly after they arrived for a purported business meeting.
They were each handed sentences of several years in prison, leaving their anguished families vowing to appeal and pleading for their return.
What are the details?
The six men are brothers Alirio Zambrano and Jose Luis Zambrano, Gustavo Cardenas, Jorge Toledo, Jose Pereira, and Tomeu Vadell, all American citizens who "are employees of Houston-based Citgo refining company, which is owned by Venezuela's state oil company, PDVSA," according to the Associated Press.
"They had been lured to Venezuela in November 2017 for a business meeting and were arrested," the outlet noted.
On Thanksgiving Day, they were all found guilty of corruption and handed sentences of 8 years, 10 months in prison except for Pereira — Citgo's president at the time of his arrest — who received 13 years.
Pereira's family has written a letter to Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro, pleading for the release of the 63-year-old and the others, citing his serious health conditions.
Alirio Rafael Zambrano, the brother of two of the men, told the Daily Mail the men were "undeniably innocent," saying they had fallen victim to "judicial terrorism."
"We, the family, are heartbroken to be separated even further from our loved ones," he said. "We pray that the leaders of our nation step forward and continue to fight unceasingly for their freedom and human rights."
The outlet noted that "Roger Carstens, the U.S. envoy for hostage affairs, said in June all six men were 'in mortal danger', with several displaying Covid-19 symptoms."
The Daily Wire pointed to a Wall Street Journal article quoting Maduro's attempt to justify the arrest of the Citgo 6 at the time that it occurred, when he said in a speech, "These people were born in Venezuela. They're Venezuelans and they'll be tried for corruption, for being thieves and traitors against the fatherland."
What has the Trump administration done to help?
The Trump administration has called repeatedly for the release of the Citgo 6 by Caracas, but relations between the U.S. and the Maduro regime are tense at best. America has imposed strict sanctions on Venezuela and does not recognize Maduro as its president.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted Friday, "We unequivocally condemn the wrongful convictions of the Citgo 6 in Venezuela. There was no justice, no evidence, and no opportunity for defense. The use of a legal system to exert political power is yet another example of why free and fair elections are needed in Venezuela."
We unequivocally condemn the wrongful convictions of the Citgo 6 in Venezuela. There was no justice, no evidence, a… https://t.co/LdwEEd3aBA— Secretary Pompeo (@Secretary Pompeo) 1606527175.0
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