A Mexican judge on Friday ordered the immediate release of a Marine held behind bars since April 1 on weapons charges.
Lawyers for Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, 25, a reservist who served two deployments to Afghanistan, had argued that his arrest at the San Ysidro border crossing was improper and that he needed immediate treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder from his combat experiences.
The judge said in his order that the case was dismissed and that Tahmooressi was granted “absolute freedom.” He ordered the release on humanitarian grounds without making a decision on Tahmooressi’s guilt or innocence. Mexican prosecutors did not object to the move.
“It is with an overwhelming and humbling feeling of relief that we confirm that Andrew was released today after spending 214 days in a Mexican prison,” Tahmooressi’s family said in a statement.
Shortly before 10 p.m. Friday, Tahmooressi left San Diego for Florida accompanied by his mother and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on a private flight arranged by Richardson’s Center for Global Engagement. Richardson had worked behind the scenes to win Tahmooressi’s freedom.
By 6 a.m. Saturday, Tahmooressi was back home in Weston, Fla., looking forward to a meal of stone crabs at a local restaurant, according to a family spokesman.
The judge’s order issued late Friday said his release would allow him to receive treatment for PTSD. A court-appointed psychiatrist had urged the judge to end the case so that Tahmooressi could return to the U.S. and receive treatment.
He had moved to San Diego from Florida in hopes of receiving treatment at the Veterans Affairs hospital in La Jolla.
But on the night of March 31, Tahmooressi was arrested with guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in his pickup truck. He insisted that he crossed the border by mistake, not to sell the weapons.
Dozens of U.S. politicians had called on Mexican authorities to release Tahmooressi. Some contacted Mexican authorities and petitioned the White House.
His mother, Jill, campaigned tirelessly in the media for her son. Talk-show host Montel Williams and actor Gary Sinise had also called for his release.
Four hearings were held in Tijuana federal court in the case. The Mexican system of justice does not call for a trial by jury.
Mexican officials had said that the case would be decided by the court system, not by political involvement from Washington or Mexico City.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Florida), who represents Tahmooressi’s home district, said: “We have waited long enough. As a mother, my heart is with Jill Tahmooressi tonight and I can only imagine the many emotions she must be experiencing.”
Tahmooressi had been held first at a Mexican prison outside Tijuana and then in a single cell at a prison outside Tecate.