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Mexican judge declines to throw out weapons charges against Marine

Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi looks down from his seat in a Marine combat vehicle during one of his combat tours in Afghanistan sometime between 2010 and 2012. Tahmooressi is now in a Tijuana prison on weapons charges.

SAN DIEGO — After a lengthy hearing in Tijuana for a Marine reservist jailed since April 1 on weapons charges, a judge Wednesday declined to throw out the case as urged by U.S. politicians and instead scheduled another evidentiary hearing.

Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, 25, who served two combat tours in Afghanistan, was arrested after crossing the border at San Ysidro with a rifle, shotgun, pistol and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in his pickup truck.

He had recently moved to San Diego to receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder at the Veterans Affairs hospital in La Jolla.

Tahmooressi has consistently said he crossed the border by mistake, missing the turnoff to remain in the U.S. That story was challenged by Mexican officials when Tahmooressi’s explanation that he had never before visited Mexico proved to be untrue.

Wednesday’s hearing was the first time that Tahmooressi was able to explain to a judge his version of events that led to his arrest. Mexican customs officials were also set to talk to the judge about what happened the night that Tahmooressi was arrested.

A hearing in May was canceled after Tahmooressi fired his attorney. The next hearing will be set for August. The judge ordered that Tahmooressi remain in jail.

Tahmooressi’s new attorney has cautioned him and his mother, Jill, that the process could take months as multiple hearings are held. Jill Tahmooressi, who lives in Florida, attended Wednesday’s hearing; the media was not allowed to attend.

Some 74 members of U.S. Congress have called on the Obama administration to work with Mexican authorities to gain Tahmooressi’s release.

On the eve of Wednesday’s hearing, Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., and Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., wrote to the Mexican judge, Victor Octavio Luna Escobedo, reminding him that Tahmooressi is “a Marine Corps veteran who risked his life for his nation and his fellow Marines.”

His case, the two wrote, should be “favorably resolved on the basis that he made a simple mistake at the border.”

Mexican officials have stressed that while the Mexican judicial system is different from the U.S. system, it shares one key characteristic: Cases are not decided by political pressure.

They have also noted that ignorance of the law is no excuse and that there are numerous signs warning that bringing weapons into Mexico is a crime.

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