Sean Penn Pushes Congress To Demand Release of Jacob Ostreicher

Bolivia Keeps Hasidic Businessman Under House Arrest

Advocate: Actor Sean Penn speaks at a Congressional hearing on the imprisonment of Hasidic businessman Jacob Ostreicher in the south American nation of Bolivia.
getty images
Advocate: Actor Sean Penn speaks at a Congressional hearing on the imprisonment of Hasidic businessman Jacob Ostreicher in the south American nation of Bolivia.

By JTA

Published May 21, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Actor Sean Penn urged a congressional hearing to pressure Bolivia to release a haredi Orthodox father of five under house arrest in the country.

Penn appeared Monday at a hearing on the case of Jacob Ostreicher of Brooklyn, who has been held nearly two years in Bolivia on accusations that he was in business with drug traffickers and money launderers. No proof has ever been provided in court.

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who has gone to Bolivia in an effort to free Ostreicher, held the hearing.

Penn, an Academy Award winner well known for his social activism, told the hearing that he has spoken to Bolivian President Evo Morales and believes that although Morales has the best of intentions, the judiciary is so corrupt in his country that the president is powerless.

Penn urged Congress to write letters to the corporate sponsors of the Dakar Rally motorcycle race, which in 2014 for the first time will go through Bolivia. As the race is a huge moneymaker for the participating countries, Penn said pressure should be exerted on the sponsors to demand the release of Ostreicher.

If Ostreicher is not freed, Penn said, the race should be rerouted to avoid Bolivia, depriving it of money and positive publicity.

The actor said he was “not only personally and thoroughly convinced of Mr. Ostreicher’s innocence, but particularly alarmed by a consensus both among Bolivian officials that the unevidenced prosecution against Jacob Ostreicher was standard operating procedure in the fundamentally corrupt Bolivian judiciary.”

Ostreicher invested in a rice-growing venture in Bolivia and was managing the business when he was arrested on suspicion of money laundering.

Penn said Ostreicher’s only crime was “to have brought a successful rice concession and well-paying jobs to Bolivia.”

Ostreicher’s wife, Miriam Ungar, told the hearing that Ostreicher does not believe he will ever be free and often unplugs his home phone because he is too depressed to speak with his family.

During the hearing, Smith said he would be reintroducing his bill, nicknamed “Jacob’s Law,” that would deny entry into the United States “to officials of any foreign government, including their immediate family members “who are involved in failing to allow due process or are involved in any human rights violations against a jailed American.”

Several other congressmen spoke at the 80-minute hearing, including Reps. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), Eliot Engel, (D-N.Y.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.)


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.