US man released after 5 years in Venezuelan jails

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — An American man detained during a wave of unrest in Venezuela has been freed after being held for five years.

Todd Leininger, 37, was arrested in April 2014 on what his family describes as trumped-up charges. He was released Thursday.

A senior Venezuelan official characterized the release as a gesture aimed at improving U.S. relations.

The U.S. State Department is calling Leininger’s release “overdue,” noting a Venezuelan court ordered him freed in November.

Venezuelan officials have accused him of aiding the opposition during anti-government protests.

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The Florida native is one of several Americans who have found themselves behind bars in Venezuela as the nation’s political and economic crisis deepens.

Joshua Holt was released after being held for over two years. Five Citgo oil executives who are U.S. citizens remain detained.

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