Josh Holt released from Venezuelan jail

Joshua Holt in a Venezuelan jail holding a letter he received last Friday from Sen. Orrin Hatch

An American who was held in a Venezuelan prison for almost two years on weapons charges made it back to the U.S. Saturday evening where he was greeted by his family and President Trump.

US President Donald Trump speaks to the family (L) of Joshua Holt (C), who had been detained in Venezuela for two years, in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 26, 2018.

Sen. Bob Corker worked for months to secure the release on Saturday of a USA citizen who had been held in a Venezuelan prison for two years, his office confirmed.

The announcement came as a the Venezuelan government had appeared to be doubling down on claims that Holt was a USA government agent.

The freeing of the Mormon missionary from Utah came despite deepening US-Venezuelan tensions that in the last week saw tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats, Washington's refusal to recognise the May 20 re-election of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and the imposition of new US sanctions on Caracas.

US President DOnald Trump on Saturday said an American citizen jailed in Venezuela since 2016 had been released. Orrin Hatch of Utah worked tirelessly for Holt's family.

A day earlier, he described the encounter between Maduro and Corker as "a very good meeting; it is good news for the Venezuelan people". The couple, joined by Sen. They say they're doing things but I'm still here.'.

Rodriguez said that the measure was granted after the Venezuelan government met with a congressional delegation from the United States, which asked for the pair to be freed.

Hatch said in a statement that Corker had been "pivotal" in the effort to secure Holt's release, although the Tennessee lawmaker downplayed his role as "small".

In a statement Saturday night, the White House says the Holts were unjustly held.

They had been held in a notorious Caracas prison run by the secret police that's also home to dozens of Maduro's top opponents who have been jailed during the past few years of political unrest in the country. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted he is "very happy for Josh Holt & his family". The details were still being worked out, the official said.

Mr Trump praised Mr Holt's bravery and thanked politicians who lobbied for his release, as well as Mr Holt's parents. In April, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., had also met with Maduro to press Holt's release.

In a statement Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo nodded to the efforts of those who had followed Holt's plight. In a follow-up tweet, the president mentioned Holt by name.

Holt, a Mormon, was being held at a prison in Caracas known as the Helicoide where political prisoners are held by the Venezuelan intelligence service Sebin.

Nicmer Evans, a Venezuelan political analyst, said Holt's reversal of fortune comes as Maduro is trying to find legitimacy after that vote - and relief from a barrage of worldwide sanctions.

"They were a very, very hard two years", he continued.