Mexico’s information minister in the U.S. insisted that the country is just following judicial procedure by holding Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi behind bars for bringing guns across the border.
The reservist who served two combat tours in Afghanistan was arrested at the San Ysidro border crossing the night of March 31 and is currently being held in the El Hongo II prison in Tecate, Mexico, for bringing guns into the country. Tahmooressi reportedly had a rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun, a .45-caliber pistol and more than 400 rounds of ammunition in his truck.
Ariel Moutsatsos-Morales, the minister for Press and Public Affairs for the Embassy of Mexico in the U.S., told CNN this morning that Tahmooressi will have his next day in court on July 9.
“Mr. Tahmooressi is in prison for carrying weapons that are of the exclusive use of the armed forces in Mexico and for possessing ammunition and a shotgun without a license,” Moutsatsos-Morales said, adding that their prisoner is in “very good spirits.”
“He’s there in a prison under permanent medical observation. He suffers from PTSD. So he has declined to take medication,” the envoy said. “…From the very first moments of his detention, because he was carrying three weapons, two of which are of exclusive use of armed forces, which is a serious felony in Mexico. They were at his reach and they were loaded, so he was arrested and taken under custody by the Mexican attorney general’s office.”
“From that moment, he has received permanent assistance from the consulate of the United States in Tijuana, and he was transferred from one jail to another because he tried to escape twice and he tried to harm himself once. So the Mexican authorities in the jail tried — just took the measures necessary for him not to harm himself again, and not to try to escape again.”
Moutsatsos-Morales added that whether Tahmooressi crossed the border by accident, as he claims, can only be decided by a judge in federal court.
“I am not aware of any proof regarding this being an accident or not being an accident, and I cannot certainly talk about that. I can just tell you that the signs are very clear to return to the U.S., and if you didn’t see those signs, then if someone doesn’t see those signs, then there are also signs saying that there are no weapons allowed into Mexico. And if you don’t see those signs, then there are also signs that you need to see and to make a decision before crossing, between choosing the line of nothing to declare or something to declare,” he said.
“And Mr. Tahmooressi decided to cross into Mexico through the lane of nothing to declare, so he certainly made some decisions on the way to crossing into Mexico. And even the fact that this is the fifth time that he crossed into Mexico for private reasons, because he didn’t cross as a Marine, he was not on active duty, he was not on official duty, he was not in an official vehicle — he crossed for private reasons, as he already has acknowledged.”
The Mexican official stressed that the most important aspect of the case is the process by which the Marine has been sitting in jail for three months.
“There is a big difference between the Mexican law and the U.S. law. Here in the U.S., you have prosecutorial discretion. A prosecutor can decide whether to prosecute something or not. In Mexico, that doesn’t exist. If there is evidence of a possible crime committed, like in this case, the prosecutor has to prosecute. He doesn’t make any decisions regarding that, but to prosecute, to investigate, and then to present this to the judge. The case is certainly in that stage and Mr. Tahmooressi is awaiting his next hearing,” Moutsatsos-Morales continued.
“The case is clear. He was carrying weapons that are of the exclusive of the armed forces… the judge is the one who will decide if it was an accident or not. And if he is released because he’s considered or sentenced not guilty, or sentenced guilty and he has to serve some time in jail, that’s only up to the judge.”