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Marine in Mexican jail may be released soon, two lawmakers say

Two key members of Congress on Wednesday said they were confident a Marine reservist jailed in Mexico on weapons charges will be released so that he can return to the U.S. and receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I am confident a humanitarian release of Andrew will occur very soon,” Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) said at the beginning of a congressional hearing in Washington on the incarceration of Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi.

Royce and Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) said they have discussed the Tahmooressi case with Mexican Atty. Gen. Jesus Murillo Karam.

Karam suggested he will order the charges dropped if Tahmooressi’s PTSD is confirmed by Mexican psychologists, the two congressmen told a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.

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Royce is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Salmon is chairman of the subcommittee.

Both said Karam told them that, as attorney general, he has the authority to dismiss the charges against Tahmooressi, who was arrested April 1 on weapons charges on the Mexican side of the San Ysidro border crossing.

Two psychiatrists have examined Tahmooressi and confirmed that he has PTSD, according to Tahmooressi’s attorney, Fernando Benitez, who presented the reports to a federal judge during an evidentiary hearing Tuesday in Tijuana.

He contended that Mexico does not have the resources to treat PTSD.

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“‘We’re not at the finish line, but we’ve made a huge leap forward,” Benitez said in a Twitter message after the court hearing. “I advise patience and composure. This is evidence, not yet a ruling.”

Tahmooressi, 25, served two deployments in Afghanistan and had traveled to San Diego to receive treatment at the Veterans Affairs hospital in La Jolla. He is being held without bail at a prison outside Tecate.

He has insisted that he mistakenly crossed the border after missing the final turnout to remain in the U.S. When he was stopped by Mexican authorities, Tahmooressi had three weapons and several hundred rounds of ammunition in his pickup truck.

“He has spent six months in prison for what was a wrong turn,” Salmon said. “Our war hero needs to come home.”

Tahmooressi’s mother, Jill, a nurse in Florida, testified at the congressional hearing that her son “is despondent without treatment and he needs to be home.”

Also testifying was talk show host Montel Williams, who served in the Marine Corps and Navy.

Williams, his voice breaking with emotion, said that once he is released, Tahmooressi will not only need treatment for PTSD from his combat tours in Afghanistan, but also for the abuse suffered during his months incarcerated in Mexico.

“To me, that’s an abomination,” said Williams, adding that President Obama should call the Mexican president to have Tahmooressi freed.

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He noted a recent conversation he had with Tahmooressi, who told him, “I have a bad time keeping the bad thoughts out.”

Several members of Congress criticized President Obama for not calling the president of Mexico to ask him to free Tahmooressi.

“I would say: ‘Mr. President, we have a man down. Pick up a phone and do your job,’” said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.).

By holding Tahmooressi in jail, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) said, “Mexico stole Andrew’s chance for a quick recovery” from PTSD.

tony.perry@latimes.com
Twitter: @LATsandiego


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