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LA County Public Defender, Accused of Being US Spy, Detained in Venezuela

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The family and friends of a Los Angeles County public defender are hoping for his safe return as he nears a year locked up in a Venezuelan maximum-security military prison.

His family says 44-year-old Eyvin Hernandez was detained in March of last year during a two-week vacation in South America. A group of armed men near the Colombia-Venezuela border accused him of being an American spy and captured him when he couldn’t pay a bribe, Hernandez’s family said.

“It’s been a roller coaster of emotions,” Henry Martinez said. “The first week where we lost communication with my brother, I thought the worst. Once we discovered he was alive and realized where he was at, we immediately mobilized to take all the actions to bring my brother home.”

Hernandez has served as a public defender for Los Angeles County since 2006. His family said he pursued the profession because he wanted to help the most vulnerable.

Family, friends and colleagues on Wednesday held a candlelight vigil for Hernandez to raise awareness of his plight. At the vigil was Osman Khan, a former American detainee who said he was in prison with Hernandez. Khan was released as part of a prisoner swap last October.

“It hurts right now to know that Eyvin isn’t here with me. When I came back, when I got on that plane and saw that he wasn’t going to be with me, it hurt and it still hurts to this day,” Khan said.

As Wednesday’s vigil got underway, Hernandez called his family. His brother held the phone up to the microphone as Hernandez thanked his supporters in Spanish; his family says he’s not allowed to speak English in prison.

The U.S. Department of State says Hernandez is wrongfully detained. His friends and family wants the government to negotiate his safe release.

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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