A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee will convene a hearing in two weeks on the detention of U.S. Marine Reserve Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi by Mexico.
Tahmooressi was arrested at the border the night of March 31 and is currently being held in the El Hongo II prison in Tecate, Mexico. He reportedly had a rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun, a .45-caliber pistol and more than 400 rounds of ammunition in his truck when he was stopped at the San Ysidro crossing.
Testifying at the Oct. 1 Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hearing will be the Marine’s mother, Jill Tahmooressi, and talk-show host and veterans advocate Montel Williams.
“We should never forget the sacrifices men and women in uniform have made. U.S. Marine Sergeant Andrew Tahmooressi’s combat-related PTSD is a life-threatening condition he acquired in defense of his country while serving on the battlefields of Afghanistan, and he needs to return to the United States for specific and urgent treatment,” Foreign Affairs chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said in a statement announcing the hearing.
“I have maintained my respect for Mexico’s laws and sovereignty throughout, but since visiting Sgt. Tahmooressi at his prison in Mexico, I have become more committed than ever to ensuring his immediate release on humanitarian grounds,” Royce added. “Sgt. Tahmooressi is an American hero, whose wrong turn at the Mexican border has had the devastating effect of delaying his much-needed PTSD treatment for too long.”
Royce and the subcommittee chairman, Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), have been visiting Tahmooressi at his Tecate prison.
“As Congress begins to contemplate once again committing our nation’s servicemen and women to the fight against terrorism, it is incumbent on us to stand by our heroes when they return home,” Salmon said. “As a direct result of his honorable service in Afghanistan, U.S. Marine Sergeant Andrew Tahmooressi now suffers from combat related PTSD. Tragically, instead of receiving the treatment he needs, he is being held in a Mexican prison.”
“As a member of Congress it is my obligation and duty to protect heroes like Andrew who have suffered the ravages of war in service to our nation,” Salmon continued. “I’m convening this hearing to honor his service and work to ensure his immediate release so that he can receive the treatment he needs.”
Tahmooressi’s last hearing was on Aug. 4. The State Department said two customs officials and two military officials testified.
“While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to the country’s laws. We believe that he is being afforded all appropriate due process,” press secretary Jen Psaki said Aug. 5. “We’d point you and refer you to the Mexican authorities for more information about why the court proceedings are not open to the public.”
“This is obviously a case and his well-being is certainly of great concern to the United States, and that’s why we’ve had consular officials meet – visit him 20 times,” she added. “…I think we’ve raised this issue where appropriate, including at the Secretary’s level, and obviously, we’ll continue to be engaged in the case.”
Tahmooressi says he crossed the border by accident due to confusing signs that caused him to miss the last exit in the U.S. Signs before you enter Mexico at the San Ysidro crossing warn against bringing guns into the country.
Ariel Moutsatsos-Morales, the minister for Press and Public Affairs for the Embassy of Mexico in the U.S., told CNN in June that the country has followed judicial behavior by detaining the Marine.
“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,” Moutsatsos-Morales said.
“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.”
Tahmooressi told Fox’s Greta van Susteren in a May 30 interview that he took the opportunity to try to flee when he was able to scale a number of fences and run across rooftops, making it to the gate where he was shot at by a tower guard. He then surrendered.
On Sept. 5, Royce and Salmon wrote to Mexico’s attorney general, Jesús Murillo Karam, asking for his “personal assurance that a humanitarian solution is reached for the immediate release of Sgt. Tahmooressi.”
“Sgt. Tahmooressi’s combat related PTSD is a life threatening condition he acquired in honorable defense of his country, and he needs to return to the United States to begin treatment post haste. It is because of this that we have been closely following his incarceration in Mexico, even visiting him at the El Hongo II prison in Tecate. And it is because of this that we respectfully ask for your good offices in assuring that his case is resolved urgently,” the congressmen wrote.
“Attorney General Murillo Karam, we are respectful of Mexico’s laws and sovereignty, and are committed to our bilateral relationship. We are also mindful of your obligations as Mexico’s chief law enforcement officer. Given the extenuating circumstances surrounding his erroneous arrival at the Mexican border, and the fact that he requires specific and urgent treatment for PTSD, we ask for your personal assurance that a humanitarian solution is reached for the immediate release of Sgt. Tahmooressi,” Royce and Salmon continued.
“We look forward to continued and necessary cooperation in promoting security along our common border, as we turn to you for your personal intervention in seeing this case finally resolved.”