Venezuela on Wednesday deported an American filmmaker who was arrested in April on accusations of spying for Washington and plotting with opposition student groups to destabilize the South American OPEC nation.
"The gringo Timothy Hallet Tracy, who was captured
while spying in our country, has been expelled," Interior and Justice Minister
Miguel Rodriguez Torres said on Twitter.
The American's lawyer, Daniel
Rosales, said the charges against his client had been dropped, and the
35-year-old returned to the United States on a commercial flight to
"It was a traumatic experience. He's going to need some time," his
sister, Tiffany Klaasen, told Reuters, saying he was still trying to come to
grips with his imprisonment.
"We're just really happy that my brother is
back and safe," she said by phone from her home in Grosse Pointe Farms,
The outcome of the case was seen as a test of new Venezuelan
President Nicolas Maduro's intentions toward Washington following years of
hostility from his predecessor, late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.
a trip to Latin America in May, President Barack Obama called the accusations
against Tracy "ridiculous."
Tracy's release came hours before US
Secretary of State John Kerry met with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua on
the sidelines of a regional meeting in Guatemala in a rare high-level meeting
between the ideologically opposed governments.
Tracy's sister said a
former US congressman from Massachusetts, William Delahunt, who has worked to
foster better relations between the two countries, helped win his
Delahunt was part of a small US delegation at Chavez's funeral
in March. He has been advising Tracy's family since his arrest.
Friends and relatives of Tracy, who was a director and
producer at Los Angeles-based Freehold Productions, according to his LinkedIn
profile, said he was making a documentary in Venezuela ahead of its April 14
He was arrested 10 days after the vote as he tried
to fly out of the country - amid a flurry of headline-grabbing accusations by
the government that included claims of assassination plots against Maduro from
Venezuela said intelligence agents had been tracking Tracy since
late 2012 and had uncovered ample evidence he was plotting with militant
anti-government groups to provoke "civil war."
Klaasen said her brother
was treated well while he was in jail. "We were in touch with him every day,"
she said. "We never had any concerns about his safety."
Venezuelan filmmakers had appealed for Tracy's release. According to his
LinkedIn profile, Tracy attended Georgetown University and his work included the
"Madhouse" TV series about stock car racing for the History
Obama's comments on Tracy's arrest infuriated Venezuela's
government and revived accusations of "imperialist meddling" that became routine
during Chavez's polarizing 14-year rule.
Maduro rebuffed Obama,
describing his U.S. counterpart as "the grand chief of devils" and issuing a
formal protest note.
Maduro, who narrowly won April's vote amid
allegations of foul play by both sides, has at times also seemed to strike a
more conciliatory note.
On Wednesday, Kerry called Venezuela's decision
to release Tracy a "positive development" after meeting with Jaua. He said he
hoped the two countries could move quickly to reinstate mutual ambassadors,
which they have been without since 2010.
"We agreed today, both of us,
that we would like to see our countries find a new way forward, establish a more
constructive and positive relationship," Kerry said.
Washington has held
back recognition of Maduro, and a U.S. official said this week that there
remained concerns about how deep post-election divisions in Venezuela would be