Venezuela political prison seized by inmates ahead of presidential election

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In two 20-second videos posted Wednesday to his personal Facebook page, Josh Holt says a group of people have taken over control of the prison, and that they are trying to kill him.

He said authorities had fired weapons and tear gas but detainees were holding out to demand freedom.

In videos posted on social media, Venezuelan activists, including a man identified as Sanabria whose face was bruised, pleaded for help.

In another video on social media, Joshua Holt, a USA citizen and Mormon missionary whose family has said he was framed on weapons charges while in Venezuela for his wedding, pleaded to be set free.

"I've been begging my Government for two years".

Holt, 26, has been locked in the prison since June 2016, when he and his wife, Thamara "Thamy" Caleno, were arrested on suspicion of illegally possessing weapons.

His first-ever video message from jail came amid what the US Government described as a riot by fellow inmates, including some of President Nicolas Maduro's top opponents who are being held alongside the American. They are outside. They are trying to break in. "And now my life is threatened", Holt said. They are saying that they want to kill me. "They're saying they want me as their guarantee". Venezuela's chief prosecutor said his office was on site, but did not provide details.

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Utah man in Venezuelan jail says prison 'has fallen' by people wanting to kill him

"I'm calling on the people of America: I need your help to get me out of this place".

His family has denied the accusations, and believe the Venezuelan government is holding Holt and his wife to bargain with the US, which has imposed economic sanctions on the country.

The Trump administration has suggested there are political motives for Mr Holt's continued detention.

The Holt family released a statement through Trujillo, saying they were both "deeply troubled and concerned" about the riots.

But Maduro's comments were overshadowed by reports of a major disturbance at El Helicoide, an iconic 1950s shopping mall that was converted into the headquarters of Venezuela's feared spy agency, the Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional (SEBIN), and has become a crumbling symbol of the country's plunge into economic chaos and authoritarianism.

A third video shows a USA citizen, John Holt, who was arrested in Caracas in 2016 and has yet to be tried. It said: "Venezuela's government is directly responsible for their safety and we will hold them responsible if anything happens to them".

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