Looks as if Andrew Tahmooressi, the former Marine jailed in Mexico after blundering across the border last spring with three loaded guns and 400 rounds of ammunition in his truck, will not be coming home any time soon.
On Wednesday, Tahmooressi faced a Mexican federal judge for the first time since his April 1 arrest at the San Ysidro border crossing on suspicion of violating Mexican gun laws. As my colleague Tony Perry reported, during a seven-hour hearing, Tahmooressi was finally able to explain how he took a wrong turn out of a border parking lot and ended up in a country that essentially outlaws guns.
“We feel the hearing was a success, and we feel we are finally on the right track in order to achieve what every one of us is ultimately hoping for,” said Tahmooressi’s attorney, Fernando Benitez, who spoke to reporters in Tijuana.
But the judge did not issue a ruling, and Tahmooressi, 26, will remain imprisoned in Tecate until his next scheduled court date, Aug. 4.
Predictably, Tahmooressi’s legal struggle has become a cause celebre in conservative political circles.
Many supporters, who note that his guns were legally obtained in the U.S., are genuinely offended that he was detained rather than escorted back to the border and released. They need to be reminded that Mexico, despite the well-chronicled corruption of many local police agencies, is still a country of laws.
Although it would be humane to release Tahmooressi, who according to his mother is suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome after two tours in Afghanistan, Mexico will not be pressured into releasing Tahmooressi.
That has not stopped partisan critics of President Obama, who have tried to frame Tahmooressi's plight as a case of abandonment by a commander-in-chief who only weeks ago insisted that Americans leave no man on the battlefield after he approved the trade of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners.
But Tahmooressi was not on a battlefield. And he’s no longer on active duty.
Dozens of members of Congress have written the president asking him to work with the Mexican government to secure Tahmooressi’s release. The president has not spoken publicly about the case, but Secretary of State John Kerry raised the issue during a visit to Mexico in May.
On Wednesday, during a Senate committee hearing on the flood of Central American children crossing into Texas, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson briefly veered off topic to talk about the case.
He called Tahmooressi’s incarceration “outrageous” and demanded to know from Francisco Palmieri, a deputy assistant secretary of state, what the president was doing to help Tahmooressi.
“Is President Obama as outraged as most Americans are by the Mexican government’s mistreatment of Sgt. Tahmooressi?” Johnson asked. “Are we going to demand his return if he is not returned today?”
Palmieri replied that Tahmooressi is being provided with “the full range of American services.”
“I know my colleagues in Mexico City and Tijuana are working vigorously on this case to expedite as speedy a resolution as we can,” Palmieri said.
The jingoistic intensity around this issue has become so extreme that Tahmooressi’s mother, Jill, was moved to issue an "urgent" plea on Facebook to his “passionate supporters,” asking them to stop their crazy talk (my words) about breaking him out of prison on their own.
“That is not an acceptable action,” she wrote. “Please honor our request to wait for the legal process to resolve this.”
Criminal defense attorney and veteran's advocate Philip Dunn, who was with Jill Tahmooressi in Tijuana on Wednesday, was even more blunt. He told Tony Perry that Andrew Tahmooressi is not being helped by “all these blowhards who have no respect for the dignity of a sovereign nation and its judicial system.”
Maybe the blowhards will turn down the volume a little now. Not that I'm holding my breath.
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