Mexico frees ex-Marine jailed for bringing in gun



Miami: A Marine veteran jailed for months in Mexico after trying to carry a family heirloom shotgun across the border has been freed, officials and his lawyer said.

The attorney for Jon Hammar tweeted that his client had been released from a detention centre in Matamoros, Mexico. US officials had been planning to drive the 27-year-old Hammar across the border at Brownsville, Texas. "He's out. Going home," wrote Eddie Varon Levy in a tweet.

US Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla, confirmed in a statement last night that Hammar had been released. She also said he was "back safely in the United States."

"These past few months have been an absolute nightmare for Jon and his family, and I am so relieved that this whole ordeal will soon be over," the congresswoman said.

"I am overcome with joy knowing that Jon will be spending Christmas with his parents, family and friends."

She thanked those "who have shown unwavering support for Jon and his family in their time of need, and who have been so instrumental in making this happen."

An aide to a legal representative of the Mexican attorney general's office had told US Sen Bill Nelson's staff about the pending release after the Florida Democrat's office got word from Hammar's mother, according to a press release.

"No American should be in a Mexican jail for five months without being able to have his case in front of a judge," Nelson had said in that statement. "We're grateful; this is a good Christmas present."

Earlier in the day, Varon Levy said he was flying from Mexico City to Matamoros to pick up his client. After that, the attorney said, they intended to cross the border. "I'm very happy. I feel that the Mexican legal system came out the way it should have," he said.

US immigration and State Department officials had been at the Mexican detention centre waiting for Hammar's release.

A defence lawyer said Mexican authorities determined there was no intent to commit a crime, Nelson's office said. The senator was among a handful of elected officials who urged the State Department to help get Hammar out of Mexico.

His family said he was being held in isolation after they received threats to his safety.

Varon Levy said the path for Hammar's return was cleared when Mexican officials decided not to appeal the judge's ruling.

Civilian gun ownership is illegal under Mexican law unless the owner purchases the weapon from a special shop run by the country's Department of Defence.

PTI