On December 20, 2023, Alex Saab, who had been jailed by the United States since 2020, was finally released in a prisoner exchange with Venezuela; the Venezuelan diplomat is now returning home to his home, family and country in a joyful scene of reconciliation and celebration. The National Lawyers Guild and the International Committee have long supported efforts to free Saab, and Suzanne Adely, NLG President and Audrey Bomse, NLG member and co-chair of the Mass Incarceration Committee, have met with Saab inside the Miami Detention Center.
“Today’s release of Alex Saab is a victory for the people of Venezuela over U.S. sanctions. We in the NLG are committed to continue to struggle to bring an end to these imperialist sanctions and to free all political prisoners in US jails,” said Suzanne Adely, president of the National Lawyers Guild.
“After all Alex has been through, being illegally kidnapped and tortured (including waterboarding) in Cape Verde, being extradited to the US without an extradition treaty, being denied diplomatic immunity because the US doesnt recognize the elected Maduro government which he represented, this is an awesome development. Given the political nature of the charges and prosecution against him, it was the ONLY way he would ever be released. I’m looking forward to seeing him again, this time in Caracas,” said Audrey Bomse, co-chair of the NLG Mass Incarceration Committee.
Saab was intercepted and seized unlawfully in Cape Verde as his plane was refueling on June 12, 2020, on his way to Iran in his role as special envoy for Venezuela. He was arrested without a warrant, with an Interpol red notice received only after his arrest on a series of charges related to violation of U.S. sanctions. He remained in this tiny island nation, where he was subjected to torture for over a year.
The purpose of his long detention and inhumane treatment in Cape Verde was, again according to the NYTimes, to get him to cooperate with U.S. authorities to “help untangle Mr. Maduro’s economic web of support and assist the authorities in bringing charges against other allies of the Venezuelan government.” Saab refused to cooperate and was eventually extradited to the U,S., although there is no extradition treaty between Cape Verde and the U.S. In an agreement with Cape Verde, the U.S. agreed to drop seven of the charges against Saab once he was extradited to the United States.
“The release of Alex Saab through a prisoner exchange between Venezuela and the US indicates, once again, that exchanging captives for captives through an exchange process is the most reliable mechanism to secure the release of political prisoners held in US jails and those of US allies. We soon hope to see this development echoed in Palestine with the release of all of the over 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners through a prisoner exchange,” said Charlotte Kates of the NLG International Committee.
The NLG is a co-sponsor of the International People’s Tribunal on US Imperialism, which concluded its fact-finding mission to Venezuela in July of this year with a statement: “Today, we state unequivocally that the sanctions, blockades and economic coercive measures imposed on Venezuela constitute crimes against humanity, including the crime of genocide. That the US has not succeeded in its efforts to subjugate the Venezuelan people is a testament to their resistance, creativity and steadfastness in developing new forms of action and production in order to confront the blockade.”