Knoxville Marine released from Venezuela after two years of wrongful detainment
Venezuela leaders released seven men from their custody Saturday.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Former Marine, Matthew John Heath, was one of seven Americans released from custody in Venezuela Saturday, according to a report by the Associated Press.
The Knoxville native was detained in Venezuela in September of 2020 under President Nicholas Maduro’s reign and was charged in connection with a terrorist plot to sabotage oil refineries and electrical services in order to stir unrest, Venezuela’s former Chief Prosecutor Tarek William Saab said on state television.
Heath was accused of having ties to the CIA and receiving help from three Venezuelan conspirators who were arrested with him near a pair of oil refineries on the Caribbean coast, according to Saab.
In July, Heath attempted suicide which reiterated his family’s pleas to bring him home. Heath’s mother, Connie Haynes, and his aunt and uncle, Everett and Trudy Rutherford were his biggest advocates. They traveled to Washington D.C. multiple times and spread the word about his detainment to try and get him released.
Along with Heath, five of the Citgo 6 members were also released.
The Citgo 6 is a group of six former executives of Venezuela’s US-based oil refining company CITGO who are convicted of corruption and were detained in Venezuela since 2017.
One member of Maduro’s inner circle said the arrest of the Citgo 6 was a direct order from Maduro, according to a report from CNN.
The U.S. released two nephews of Maduro’s wife who were detained on drug smuggling charges, a U.S. official told the Associated Press.
All seven of the released Americans were being taken to a military hospital in San Antonio for medical examinations, according to Rutherford.
The family told WVLT News they expect to reunite with Heath Sunday and has set up a fundraiser to help him get back on his feet when he returns.
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