After months in a dank Tijuana jail cell, a former Marine returns home
On Oct. 31, a former US marine and veteran of the war in Afghanistan was granted his freedom after a Mexican federal judge ordered his immediate release from the El Hongo federal prison in Tijuana. The marine was imprisoned for eight months after Mexican police discovered loaded guns in his truck after crossing the border. Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi was released from prison to seek treatment in the United States for his post-traumatic stress disorder after a psychiatrist hired by Mexican authorities found he felt his life was constantly in threat. Tahmooressi says he did not cross the border intentionally but after taking a wrong turn he had no choice but to enter the Tijuana checkpoint. Mexican border agents arrested the marine March 31 after discovering the guns. “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.
Due to the ongoing war with the drug cartels and to prevent weapons made in the US from getting to the cartels, Mexico maintains and enforces strict gun laws. It is a federal offence to be found in possession of firearms restricted to the army.
In an interview with CNN earlier this year, his mother, Jill, said her son “has unresolved, or untreated PTSD, and he cannot get the cognitive therapy behaviour that veterans of America receive … in a Mexico jail, where there is no such thing.”
Fernando Benitez, Sgt. Tahmooressi’s attorney, said the federal judge was convinced to release the retired marine, even though no judgement was issued on the firearms offence, because authorities in Mexico have no experience in treating soldiers suffering from PTSD. His attorney argued that he was carrying the loaded weapons (which were legally purchased in the United States) not for malicious or criminal intent but because he feels safe when has them. In the same interview with CNN, his mother said her son was on his way to California after dropping out of college to seek psychiatric care for his PTSD.
Although authorities in Mexico still believe he broke the law, the charges have been dropped and agreed after a report was released Sept. 30 that Tahmooressi should be released from prison to seek treatment in the US because he felt his was always under threat.
Tahmooressi said in an interview with CNN following his release that on a numerous occasions the guards beat and abused and tortured him, and in one instance, attempted to commit suicide.
“I was laying on a bed. … When I got the opportunity, I decided to stab myself in the neck with a light bulb … I was paranoid. I had been abused. I was thinking they were going to come and abuse me more and torture me and get information about my family from me. So I said, ‘I’m not going to allow them to do that,’” he said. Tahmooressi maintains he did not do anything wrong and authorities in Mexico are also denying that they violated the Marine’s rights by holding the veteran for a period of eight hours in detention before providing him with a translator and communication with the US consulate. Prior to his arrest, Tahmooressi was attending college in Florida but after repeated nights of insomnia and inability to focus on his studies he was forced to drop out in January to seek help in San Diego, California for his PTSD.