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The men are being held in Ciudad Guayana, an oil-producing city in Venezuela, and face varying terms of imprisonment and drug trafficking charges.
(CNN) — The four executives — from five different multinational oil companies — have been imprisoned since April 2015 on criminal charges that were widely dismissed by analysts and even by their own companies as politically motivated.
Despite the fact that the case has been languishing through Venezuela’s clogged judicial system for four years, no information has come out regarding the charges, or any moves to resolve the case.
Although the three Americans and one British citizen were all living in Caracas, they were detained with an unknown number of co-workers on a police vehicle in a routine police stop. Venezuelan authorities accused them of drug trafficking and of harboring fugitives. (The US Justice Department said in a statement it has provided evidence of criminal activity to Venezuela’s opposition-led parliament to try to gain access to their prosecution, but nothing has come of it.)
The detention of the executives became a firebrand political issue because they were being held in Ciudad Guayana, an oil-producing city in Venezuela, and because the men face varying terms of imprisonment and drug trafficking charges.
Oil magnate Daniel Brewster, 70, an American, and three Europeans, Belgian Ian Trigg, 50, Venezuelan Matthieu Reeb, 42, and Briton Laurence Higgins, 51, are of Libyan and Lebanese origins. They pleaded not guilty last year to drug trafficking, conspiracy to provide arms and support for a terrorist group, money laundering and other charges.
In a defense filed in July, Higgins’ lawyer said authorities were “using General Maduro’s .37 percent of [a Venezuelan oil] company to pressure the US into forcibly seizing” the company’s assets and that it was “somewhat remarkable” they remained imprisoned.
“The Ministry of Justice has claimed that what in all likelihood actually happened is that the four defendants were all with one another in the same town at the same time when five police vehicles stopped them,” the defense wrote. “It was a random part of the regular police work force doing a random part of the regular police work load, and could not have been foreseen, anticipated or prevented.”
The four Americans and one British citizen have held out hope that when the trial does begin, they will be proven innocent.
Barcela’s attorney Julio Delgado told CNN late last year that not a single piece of incriminating evidence had been presented at the trial, and that Brewster and the others are being “practically held hostage.”