UNION COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — Questions remain for the family of Matthew Heath, a Union County native and U.S. Marines veteran who remains jailed in Venezuela.
Heath was arrested in the South American country in September 2020, his family saying they were shocked he was being accused by President Nicolás Maduro of being a terrorist and spying for former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Connie Haynes, Heath’s mother, said it was a situation of her son being in the “wrong place at the wrong time,” and that she isn’t sure why the government is considering her son a terrorist.
“There’s no evidence to back that up,” she said. “That’s hopefully what his lawyer is going to be able to bring out.”
Heath was able to have a court hearing on Wednesday about the charges against him.
Heath’s family, learning of what happened at court from his Venezuelan attorney, Dr Guillermo Heredia, and Tamara Suju online.
Haynes said Heath was able to take the stand, and explain some of the things he has endured during his time in prison.
“Matthew was able to speak, and report the abuse he’s been… he’s been going through,” Haynes said. “He’s been tortured, they put plastic bags over his head, electrical shock, he’s been beaten numerous times… this went on for eight days.”
Haynes said correspondence has been limited with her son. She said his original court hearing for Feb. 14 was postponed and that’s when she learned from his attorney the only letters the family can write to him are to either say hello, or ask about his health.
With the recent developments, Haynes, and the rest of Heath’s family, are calling on the President Joe Biden’s Administration to get involved with the situation.
“That’s why we really need to the Biden Administration to speak with Maduro and help us get Matthew home,” she said.
According to a statement from the family, Heath’s father is in constant contact with the U.S. State Department through the US Embassy in Bogota, Colombia and his aunt, Trudy Rutherford, works closely with the Richardson Center for Global Engagement.
Tennessee U.S. Congressman Chuck Fleischmann (R) has also been a supporter of the family during this time.
Heath is expected back in court in the coming days.