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Marine held in Mexican prison on weapons charges

Marine held in Mexican prison on weapons charges
Marine Andrew Tahmooressi is shown being promoted meritoriously to sergeant after serving in combat in Afghanistan. He is now being held on weapons charges in a notorious Mexican prison. (Marine 1st Lt. Chris Harper)

A Marine sergeant is being held on weapons charges in the notorious La Mesa prison near Tijuana after driving into Mexico with three firearms.

Andrew Tahmooressi, 25, who served three tours in Afghanistan, including during the battle in Marjah, mistakenly crossed the border with a shotgun, handgun and rifle in his vehicle, according to Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine).

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Hunter, a Marine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, this week appealed to Secretary of State John Kerry to urge  Mexican authorities to release Tahmooressi, who was arrested April 1. Tahmooressi, unfamiliar with the border crossing at San Ysidro, drove into Mexico at night by mistake, Hunter said.

"It is absolutely critical that Andrew's release is achieved as soon as possible, allowing him to return home to his family," Hunter wrote to Kerry this week. "He served his country faithfully as a U.S. Marine and he is owed the same commitment by the U.S. government in return."

Tahmooressi was in San Diego to receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, according to his family, which has established a Facebook page and White House petition calling for his release. He is set to go to trial in Mexico on May 28, his family said.

Tahmooressi, who served with the Camp Lejeune-based 2nd Battalion, 6th Regiment, was meritoriously promoted to sergeant. He has left active duty and remains in the reserves.

Tahmooressi contacted his mother in Florida soon after his arrest to warn her of the dangerous conditions at the prison, according to a Miami television station.

"He said, 'Mom, I'm not going to make it through the night, I'm gonna be killed tonight. Whatever you do, don't come down her to ask questions,'" Jill Tahmooressi told NBC6 News.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.) has also urged the State Department to enter the case "as expeditiously as possible."

In his letter, Hunter said Tahmooressi "was recently admitted to the prison infirmary with a reported knife wound to his neck."

Twitter: @LATsandiego

tony.perry@latimes.com

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