Saturday, June 7, 2014

Mexico's comments on case of jailed U.S. Marine Andrew Paul Tahmooressi will not encourage his supporters

Oct. 1 - U.S. Marine Sgt. Tahmooressi's defense does a 180, as House committee puts the full court press on Mexico

*Sept. 9 - No Tijuana exit today for Sgt. Tahmooressi*

*Updated content Sept. 20*
Guadalajara -
On Mar. 31 U.S. Marine Sgt. Andrew Paul Tahmooressi, 25, was arrested at the San Ysidro-Tijuana border crossing, just inside Mexican territory. He acknowledged to officials that his pickup was carrying several firearms - the possession of which is strictly forbidden in this country - but insisted that he had intended to take the final exit to return to American soil, mistakenly entering a lane which prohibited him from doing so and instead sent him straight into Baja California.

Tahmooressi was charged with federal firearms violations, and has already had several preliminary court appearances before a Mexican magistrate. His case has been elevated to a veritable cause célèbre by some in the U.S. press, most notably Fox News, which writes about Tahmooressi almost daily with a passion suggesting that he should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor just for having to deal with the Mexican criminal justice system.

Tahmooressi, it should be noted, is not the first U.S. citizen in recent memory to find himself in this predicament. Other Americans, including another Marine, have demonstrated a curious inability to understand and comply with local law. With a little help from his friends, Jon Hammar released.

Although U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that he discussed the case with Mexican officials during a visit last month, the PRI administration here had been strangely quiet on the affair until this week. Yesterday Mexico's Procuraduría General de la República - that's the federal attorney general's office - suggested in its first public comments on the case that it was not particularly sympathetic to Tahmooressi's defense.

Federal prosecutors said the sergeant, who is a Marine reservist subject to recall, was carrying a .12 gauge shotgun, a 5.56 caliber rifle and a .45 caliber handgun, together with several hundred rounds of ammunition. Such items may be lawfully possessed only by the military and security forces in this country. Tahmooressi's vocal supporters, which include his U.S. congressional delegate and others on Capitol Hill, have emphasized that the weapons were properly registered to him under California law. That is an irrelevancy given his present predicament in Mexico, of course, and the unanswered question is why was Tahmooressi so closely skirting the international frontier with a small arsenal aboard his vehicle.

Tahmooressi told officials at the border crossing that he got confused and ended up in the wrong lane - one which did not permit him to make a hard U-turn and quickly return to the U.S. He claimed that he was unfamiliar with the San Ysidro crossing. But Procuraduría officials say they have presented evidence to the magistrate that the sergeant had been there on three previous occasions. According to domestic press sources, Mexico claims to have received verification of that from U.S. officials, thus raising even more questions about his travel plans and purposes.

In its first public discussion of the case, the Procuraduría's analysis will not comfort Tahmooressi or his advocates north of the border: "In Mexico, as in the United States, lack of understanding of a law, or mistakes, misapprehensions or misunderstandings of the consequences of violating the federal firearms statute, will not excuse or diminish responsibility for doing so," a spokesman tersely noted Friday.

Tahmooressi twice tried to escape from jail after a judge ordered him held for trial in early April, PGR officials claim. They maintain he was violent and injured himself, resulting in his transfer to an infirmary at another facility where he is under close medical supervision. The sergeant, who allegedly was in the San Diego area in search of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder after two tours of duty in Afghanistan, is in good health, they report, and is being fully accorded his due process rights under Mexican law. But in remarks plainly intended for U.S. consumption, the Procuraduría emphasized that Tahmooressi's prosecution will move forward, and will not be short circuited by pressure from Washington.

"There are many signs alerting travelers to the approaching Mexican border, together with warnings about bringing weapons into the country," officials said. "At the border, more than any other location, we will strictly monitor arrivals and enforce our laws."

Sept. 1 - Sgt. Tahmooressi's mother and most vigorous advocate, Jill, has asked President Obama to intervene directly in the case. But that's unlikely to happen, as the U.S. Marine reservist today marks five months in custody, and his trial for the unlawful possession of of firearms continues with no early end in sight. The White House has already said it will afford the sergeant consular assistance, but not involve itself in the merits of the prosecution. Translation: your problems with Mexico's criminal justice system are your own.

A reader in Mexico City commented today, "We should evaluate this case the same way the gringos would were a Mexican charged with a similar offense there."

Sept. 9 - No Tijuana exit today for Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi

Sept. 20- According to this CNN story, posted today by a Fox News affiliate in the Seattle-Tacoma area, "The day of his arrest, Tahmooreesi spent the day in Mexico hanging out with other Marines. He also had rented a hotel room in Tijuana where he spent the previous night. That detail has led some to doubt his story, including some in the State Department, who believe instead that he intended to cross into Mexico the day of his arrest, a State Department source told CNN."

Oct. 1 - U.S. Marine Sgt. Tahmooressi's defense does a 180, as House committee puts the full court press on Mexico

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