The plight of an Orthodox American imprisoned in Bolivia is garnering media attention following an online petition aimed at President Barack Obama.
Jacob Ostreicher, 53, was jailed a year ago on suspicion of money laundering, a claim he staunchly denies. The Brooklyn native was in Bolivia investing in a rice farm at the time of his arrest.
As per Bolivian law, Ostreicher is held without charge, which the legal system allows for up to 18 months. Poor living conditions in the prison have seen the father of five lose 60 pounds, which has been heightened since he began a hunger strike on April 15.
Now, Ostreicher’s wife Miriam Ungar is asking Obama to intervene on her husband’s behalf. Miriam started an online petition campaign almost a month ago. A petition must receive 25,000 signatories within 30 days to be brought to the president’s attention. The 30-day mark ends Saturday evening, though Miriam has already secured nearly 30,000 signatures.
Ostreicher’s story was explored in further detail during a recent episode of Nightline, when journalist Terry Moran visited his cell. Protests have also been hosted in Ostreicher’s Borough Park neighborhood, hoping to draw enough attention to secure Obama’s assistance.
The state department has said it is monitoring the situation closely. US-Bolivian relations have been tense since 2008, when the US ambassador to Bolivia was expelled from the country.