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Bolivia arrests 7 in jailed American's case

Associated Press Modified: November 27, 2012 at 9:16 pm •  Published: November 27, 2012

Independent political analyst Roberto Laserna said that Ostreicher had, unfortunately, suffered from an affliction that Bolivians have also experienced: an inefficient, corruption-ridden legal system and a "counter-drug law that instead of presuming innocence, locks people up without any rights and seizes their assets, which later disappear."

"If the government wants to clean up its image it should arrest all involved," he said.

Ostreicher has been jailed without charge since June 2011 in the eastern lowlands city of Santa Cruz. The city is Bolivia's commercial center in its agricultural heartland but is also a nexus of cocaine trafficking.

Prosecutors have yet to produce evidence supporting their allegations he laundered drug money in a rice-growing venture in which he and a Swiss partner invested $25 million. They have not formally charged him.

Ostreicher says he was duped by the Colombian woman who initially managed that venture and who planted some of its rice on land owned by the brother of a Brazilian drug trafficker.

A high-level delegation of prosecutors and police huddled with Ostreicher in the private medical clinic where he is interned into the early hours of Tuesday questioning him about the case, he said.

Ostreicher has been suffering from malnutrition caused by a liquids-only hunger strike he mounted earlier this year to protest his incarceration.

U.S. Embassy officials and a U.S. congressman, Chris Smith of New Jersey, intervened on Ostreicher's behalf early this year but apparently to little effect.

After the actor Sean Penn visited Ostreicher on Halloween, the 54-year-old orthodox Jew from Brooklyn, N.Y., was sent to the clinic, where a government doctor diagnosed him with Parkinson's disease.

Ostreicher told the AP that he was to have been sent back to Palmasola prison on Tuesday, against doctors' recommendations, but that authorities yielded to last-minute appeals and agreed to delay his return by 48 hours.


Associated Press Writer Frank Bajak reported from Lima, Peru