Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi
Hendersonville City Councilman Jeff Miller’s HonorAir these days is branching beyond its initial mission to fly World War II vets to their memorial in D.C., to help current servicemen. HonorAir is helping Jill Tahmooressi of Weston in South Florida afford her son’s legal defense fund, already raising about $15,000. HonorAir hosted a greeting session in the Historic Courthouse Sunday that drew nearly 100 people.
Legal fees are approaching $100,000, and Andrew’s savings of $65,000 is depleted, Mrs. Tahmooressi told The Tribune Friday at Asheville Regional Airport right after flying in. She then spoke by phone with conservative radio talk show host Sean Hannity. She stayed with her sister-in-law in Arden.
She was impressed how dozens of Patriot Guard motorcyclists and Marine Corps League veterans greeted her at the airport. Many held protest signs for freeing the Marine. He earned four medals, serving two combat tours in Afghanistan four years. He is an active reservist, for two more years. Patriot Guard Jake Reess of Etowah, a Vietnam era Army vet, said he simply backed a fellow soldier in time of need.
On March 31, Sgt. Tahmooressi, 25, errantly crossed one of several lower-marked U.S.-Mexico border entry points near Tijuana after taking a “wrong turn” from near San Diego, his destination, his mother said. He was driving his belongings. These included three guns, which he told her he “declared immediately” to Mexican authorities.
Surveillance video at the border will prove this, she said, which is why she claims Mexican authorities tried to keep it out as evidence. Finally, this past Tuesday, the video was due to be shown by the judge in an evidentiary hearing.
The judge is all-powerful as chief investigator in the secret session, as jury and in rendering a verdict. She has no assurance from the latest defense attorney on getting a judge known for fairly weighing facts of a case, and hopes for U.S. pressure to emerge and help. She cites lack of “evidence to suggest that he intentionally and purposefully would drive into Mexico.”
Sgt. Tahmooressi faces up to 21 years in Mexican prison on charges related to possession of three weapons and ammunition, and supposedly lacking a permit to carry the guns. Mrs. Tahmooressi said the guns are properly registered in the U.S. They are a hunting rifle, shotgun and a handgun secured beneath “suitcases and bags of clothing stacked in his (pickup) truck,” she explained. “He said these were his belongings, including three firearms.”
Jeff Miller noted “he had the guns, because he was moving from the East to West Coast. He was going to San Diego for therapy and counseling, for PTSD.” His mother said Sgt. Tahmooressi suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, since a road bomb blasted his vehicle. He once noted “my vehicle hit an IED (improvised explosive device).” The House bill in part urges Mexico to send Sgt. Tahmooressi to the U.S. to resume PTSD treatment.
As for being a gun owner he was used to handling guns as a Marine turret gunner, and from firing an automatic grenade launcher.
Right after errantly crossing the border, he was trapped by Mexican authorities. He was allegedly detained there for eight hours. He does not speak fluent Spanish, and no translator was provided. This launched a series of alleged human rights violations.
Worst is that in his one allowed phone call, he told his mother ruffian Latino inmates in an overcrowded cell boasted “they’re going to rape, torture and execute me.” He did not indicate why they targeted him. He does not look obviously American/non-Hispanic, as his father Khosrow Tahmooressi is a Christian Iranian native.
Andrew took matters into his own hands — and feet. “He bolted out of that area” of prison, Jill proudly said. “Guards brutally beat him. He was chained naked for 12 hours, and savagely beaten. Then he was shackled spread eagle (to an infirmary cot) for 35 days. His muscles atrophied.”
He got transferred to El Hongo State Penitentiary in Tieceta. He is in isolation and guarded/protected round-the-clock, said Mrs. Tahmooressi who visited him there. She credits the third attorney, Fernando Benitez, for intervening and State Department officials in Mexico for helping with court hearings. She chastised the two prior lawyers, for leaving Andrew in limbo and danger.
She said U.S. Sec. of State John Kerry merely said “I’ve raised the issue” with Mexico, speaking publicly May 21 which was nearly two months into Andrew’s captivity. “Andrew should be on the short list of those that President Obama is concerned about” — especially given Obama’s stand for human rights, she said.
Instead, Obama’s focus includes giving a video address for the opening of the 2014 Gay Games. Hannity stated Obama “has not made time for an American hero in serious trouble, who has been subjected to horrible conditions. All the president has to do is say ‘boo’ to the president of Mexico, and Sgt. Tahmooressi would be released. Yet he can’t bring himself to do that, or to contact the Marine or his family.”
Jill Tahmooressi considers her son a tortured “hostage.” “He nearly lost his life” in prison. “Mexico has obstructed justice. This is such an arduous process.” She hopes justice prevails, to “get my Marine home.”
“Anybody who hears the story about hardships he’s facing would want to help,” Miller said of getting HonorAir involved. He is frustrated at Mexican justice wheels grinding so slowly. “Their judicial system works differently. They haven’t even decided if he’s going to trial yet, after over 160 days. Imagine how disturbing that must be to a parent.”
Donors can mail checks earmarked for Tahmooressi’s legal defense to HonorAir, P.O. Box 331, Hendersonville, NC 28793. For more information on this human rights crisis, check FreeTahmooressi.com.