CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A U.S. filmmaker jailed for alleged espionage in Venezuela was expelled from the country and was returning to the United States on Wednesday, his sister said.
Timothy Tracy's release was secured with the help of former U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, said the sister, Tiffany Tracy Klaasen.
"He's been informally advising us since pretty much the onset," she said of Delahunt, who had represented the United States at the March funeral of longtime Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. She also thanked the U.S. State Department for its help.
Tracy's expulsion came just as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was to meet with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua at a regional summit in Guatemala.
It was confirmed by Venezuelan government spokesman Raimundo Urrechaga and was tweeted by the country's interior minister, Miguel Rodriguez, who described Tracy as having been "captured doing espionage in our country."
Family and friends say the 35-year-old Hollywood producer and actor had been in the country since October making a documentary about Venezuelan politics when he was arrested on April 24 at Caracas' airport as he tried to leave the country to attend his father's 80th birthday in suburban Detroit.
U.S. President Barack Obama had deemed "ridiculous" allegations by Venezuela that he was a spy. Friends said Tracy hardly spoke Spanish and had been very open about his work as he met with Venezuelans on both sides of the country's deep political divide.
Tracy's arrest came amid domestic political turmoil over the opposition candidate's claim that President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's hand-picked successor, had stolen April 14 elections.
Klaasen said the family spoke frequently to Tracy while he was held.
"He was treated very well," she said. "I was never concerned for his safety."
Klaasen said that even after Tracy was transferred last week to a notoriously unruly prison, El Rodeo, the family was assured he was in no danger.
She said she understood from Tracy's lawyer in Caracas that he was isolated in El Rodeo in a cellblock for foreigners.
Klaasen said the family was keeping details of Tracy's travel private but that she was sure her brother would be talking to the news media after reuniting with family. "I assure you that he will speak freely," she said.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.