A Mexican judge on Friday ordered the immediate release of a jailed U.S. Marine veteran who spent eight months behind bars for crossing the border with loaded guns.
Family spokesman Jonathan Franks told The Associated Press on Friday that the judge decided to release retired Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, an Afghanistan veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder whose detention brought calls for his freedom from U.S. politicians, veterans groups and social media campaigns.
The judge released him without making a determination on the charges against Tahmooressi, who said he took a wrong turn on a California freeway that funneled him into a Tijuana port of entry with no way to turn back.
“It is with an overwhelming and humbling feeling of relief that we confirm that Andrew was released today after spending 214 days in Mexican Jail,” the family said in a statement.
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In Mexico, possession of weapons restricted for use by the army is a federal crime, and the country has been tightening up its border checks to stop the flow of US weapons that have been used by drug cartels.
His attorney, Fernando Benitez, had pushed for the 26-year-old Florida man to be released because Mexico has no experience in treating combat-related PTSD, even in its own soldiers.
Benitez had argued that Tahmooressi carries loaded guns with him because his weapons, which were bought legally in the U.S., make him feel safer. He added that the veteran is often distracted, which could have contributed to him becoming lost.
Still, Mexican prosecutors maintained Tahmooressi broke the law, and they have denied claims by his attorney that he was held for about eight hours without a translator before authorities notified the U.S. Consulate.
But a psychiatrist hired by Mexican prosecutors to examine the Afghanistan veteran agreed with the defense that he should get PTSD treatment in the United States, noting in a Sept. 30 report that Tahmooressi, who now serves in the Marine reserve, feels like he is constantly in danger.
Tahmooressi did not admit wrongdoing, and he still maintains his innocence, his attorney said.
His mother, Jill Tahmooressi, has said her son’s time in a Mexican jail has been worse than his two tours in Afghanistan.
Tahmooressi left Florida for San Diego in January to get help after dropping out of college, unable to concentrate or sleep, his mother said.