Mexico defends decision to prosecute US marine

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Associated Press

Posted on June 6, 2014 at 2:33 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 6 at 4:37 PM

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico's Attorney General's Office on Friday defended its decision to prosecute a U.S. Marine veteran who was jailed after he drove into Mexico in April with three guns in his truck.

The office said in a statement that Andrew Tahmooressi was arrested on weapon charges because he was carrying a pistol, shotgun and rifle and ammunition when he crossed into Tijuana.

"In Mexico, like in the United States, ignorance of the law, error, misperceptions or misunderstandings about the consequences of violating a law, is not an exemption from responsibility," prosecutors said. The possession of any weapon restricted for the use of the Army is a federal crime in Mexico regardless of whether visitors declare it or not upon entering the country.

Tahmooressi's mother, Jill Tahmooressi, said her son was headed to dinner in San Ysidro, California, on March 31 when he mistakenly wound up at a border-crossing point in Tijuana. He has said he never intended to leave the United States but missed an exit.

Prosecutors said the 25-year-old Afghanistan war veteran was placed in the clinic of a Tijuana prison after he acted aggressively, tried to escape twice and hurt himself physically. He's now being held at a prison in the border city of Tecate.

The office said Tahmooressi's rights have been respected and he has been visited more than 50 times by his lawyers, relatives, pastor and U.S. Congressman Matt Salmon.

"It is important to highlight that along the border crossing where Tahmooressi was detained there are several, clearly visible signs about the proximity of Mexico and warnings that it is prohibited to bring weapons into our country," the Attorney General's Office said.

The office said Tahmooressi decided to hire a new defense lawyer and that's why the hearings in his case have been postponed. New dates haven't been set.

There have been similar cases in the past. In 2008, an active-duty Army soldier was jailed in Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, for driving into Mexico with guns, knives and ammunition. Former Army Spc. Richard R. Medina Torres also said he was lost and missed the last U.S. exit. He spent a little over a month in jail before being released.

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