Republican New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith is sponsoring a bill that will deny entry into the United States by officials of a foreign government involved in the violation of human rights of jailed American citizens.
“Jacob’s Law” stems from the much-publicized case of Jacob Ostreicher, a member of Brooklyn’s Orthodox community who has been held in a prison in Bolivia since June of 2011 on the charge that he engaged in business with Bolivians who were connected to drug trafficking and money laundering. The authorities in the South American country have yet to produce any evidence to back up their claims against Ostreicher.
Ostreicher’s supporters – who include such leading government officials as Senator Charles Schumer, Congressman Jerrold Nadler and Assemblyman Dov Hikind – point to the fact that Ostreicher was running a major rice-growing business in eastern Bolivia that outpaced similar ventures in the country, leading to speculation that he is the victim of an envious and corrupt government. The prison in which Ostreicher is being held, Palmasola Prison, is notorious for its lawless atmosphere, where often-dangerous inmates are given free reign to oversee daily life.
The official name of Smith’s bill is the Justice for Imprisoned Americans Overseas Act. “This bill is in direct response to several reports about U.S. citizens being held in foreign prisons around the world,” the congressman stated, “while their fundamental due process and human rights are being flagrantly violated.” Smith – who represents New Jersey’s Fourth Congressional District, which includes the heavily Orthodox Jewish community of Lakewood in Ocean County – further declared that “American citizens on travel anywhere around the world need to know that the United States will go to bat for them when they are being denied fundamental human rights or basic due process rights by foreign government officials who abuse the rule of law.”
Taking a strong interest in the case after being asked to intervene by Ostreicher’s daughter, a Lakewood resident, the congressman visited Ostreicher in prison in June. While in Bolivia, he also held meetings with government officials on behalf of the father of five and grandfather of eleven, who continues to insist that he is totally innocent of any wrongdoing.
“Jacob Ostreicher has been confined on the premise of ‘guilty until proven innocent’,” Rep. Smith asserted. The congressman also noted that Ostreicher had nearly $50 million worth of agricultural and financial assets stolen from his business.
Jacob’s Law has five cosponsors, including one Democrat and four Republican representatives.