‘Fabricated charges’: Rep. Fleischmann joins effort to free East TN man from Venezuela prison

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In this undated photo courtesy of the Heath family, Matthew Heath is seen at his mother’s home in Knoxville, Tennessee. The former U.S. Marine corporal was arrested at a roadblock in Venezuela on Sept. 10, 2020, and accused by President Nicolás Maduro of being a terrorist and spying for Donald Trump, but the American’s plight has largely gone unnoticed. (Heath family via AP)

WASHINGTON (WATE) — U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann sent a letter to new Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging him to ensure the safe return of an East Tennessee man imprisoned in Venezuela.

Matthew Heath was arrested in Venezuela in September 2020. Heath’s family told WATE 6 On Your Side in November that they were shocked President Nicolás Maduro accused him of being a terrorist and spying for Pres. Donald Trump.

Heath’s family said they do not know what led up to his arrest, but they believe he was an American citizen in the wrong place at the wrong time and was taken advantage of while trying to get back home; he had experienced delays in his sailing trip due to the pandemic last year prior to his arrest.

Now, Rep. Fleischmann is urging national leaders to help bring Heath home.

“I am grateful for the Trump administration and the U.S. Department of State’s continued efforts to assist my office and the Heath family as we work to secure the release of Mr. Heath, and respectfully ask that you, and the Biden administration, continue the State Department’s fantastic work so that he can return home and be reunited with his family,” Rep. Fleischmann states in the letter.

Below is the full letter — in English and in Spanish:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann (TN-03) wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging him to continue the State Department’s work to ensure the safe return of East Tennessee resident Matthew Heath. The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Secretary Blinken: I write to you to express my deep concern regarding American citizens who remain unjustly imprisoned by the Maduro regime in Venezuela.

Specifically, I am requesting that you do all you can to ensure the safe return of my constituent, Matthew Heath.

Mr. Heath was unjustly detained by the Maduro regime under fabricated charges on September 10, 2020. I remain concerned about the conditions in which Mr. Heath is being held and his ability to receive due process, a sacred right granted to U.S. citizens under the U.S. Constitution.

I am grateful for the Trump administration and the U.S. Department of State’s continued efforts to assist my office and the Heath family as we work to secure the release of Mr. Heath, and respectfully ask that you, and the Biden administration, continue the State Department’s fantastic work so that he can return home and be reunited with his family.

En Español:

Fleischmann sobre el injusto encarcelamiento de Matthew Heath en Venezuela

CHATTANOOGA, TN — El Congresista Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN-03) emitió el siguiente comunicado sobre el injusto encarcelamiento de Matthew Heath por parte del régimen de Maduro en Venezuela:

“El 10 de Septiembre del 2020, Matthew Heath fue detenido bajo cargos falsos por parte del régimen de Maduro. Seguimos preocupados por las condiciones en las que Heath se encuentra cautivo y su capacidad de  recibir un juicio justo. Mi oficina ha estado en constante comunicación tanto con la familia Heath, como con el Departamento de Estado y con la Embajada de Estados Unidos en Colombia. Continuaremos haciendo todo lo posible para asegurar la liberación de Matthew Heath para que pueda volver a casa y reunirse con su familia aquí en el estado de Tennessee.”

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