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No freedom yet for Tahmooressi

A Marine jailed in Mexico for four months was more optimistic about his chance of winning of freedom after a hearing Monday in Tijuana, although his fate rests with a judge who may not rule for three months.



Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi has been jailed since his arrest on March 31 on weapons charges after he made what he and his family have described as a wrong turn from the San Diego area into Mexico.

Following the five-hour hearing, defense attorney Fernando Benitez told Greta Van Susteren on the Fox News program "On the Record" that he felt his client was "a little more upbeat" and that he was "growing more optimistic as evidence is entered into his case."

Four witnesses — two Mexican soldiers and two Mexican border agents involved in Tahmooressi's arrest — testified Monday.

Benitez asserts Tahmooressi's civil rights were violated because he was not provided a translator to adequately explain why he was being arrested, the Fox News report said. The lawyer also says the 26-year-old Marine was held at the port of entry, where he crossed from San Ysidro, Calif., for more than eight hours before being transported to the federal police headquarters and formally charged with the Mexican federal crime of bringing weapons and ammunition used by the military into the country. He was not charged with weapons trafficking.

"The technical result of that would be that any and all evidence derived from that illegal time frame, the first eight hours ... could not be used to predicate the judge's verdict on it," Benitez told Fox News. Tahmooressi's fate is in the hands of a single jurist — Judge Victor Octavio Luna Escobedo.

HonorAir founder Jeff Miller launched a campaign to raise money for Tahmooressi's defense and future living expenses and medical treatment a month ago. People who want to donate can do so through the website. The Marine has a sister, Andrea, who is a chiropractor in Asheville, and his parents, who live near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., plan to retire to a community near Rutherfordton.

Benitez told Van Susteren he thought the case was "going very well so far" but said it could be three months or longer before the judge makes a final ruling.

Jill Tahmooressi, the Marine's mother, sat in the hall outside the hearing room but Benitez came out frequently to provide updates.

"The testimony of the border agents and soldiers definitely validated Mr. Benitez's contention that Andrew's civil rights were violated because they held him for eight hours without charging him, providing a translator, or contacting the state department," she told Fox News. The judge also allowed her to sit with her son for 20 minutes after the hearing.

Here is the Fox News story: