“We are extremely concerned over the role Customs and Border Protection has played in this situation,” she said.
A State Department official said Mr. Hammar was arrested Aug. 15 in Matamoros and charged with possession of a restricted firearm, and the U.S. Consulate General in Matamoros has been providing consular services to the former Marine since the office was notified of his arrest on Aug. 16.
“Since the arrest, we have been in frequent contact with Mr. Hammar, as well as with his family in the United States,” the official said. “We take the safety and well-being of our incarcerated U.S. citizens very seriously. When Mr. Hammar was threatened in prison by other inmates, consular officials arranged with prison officials for Mr. Hammar to be moved away from the general prison population. Mr. Hammar is now in a separate area where he has constant contact with prison personnel.”
The official also said when the State Department learned that physical restraints were being used, it raised the issue with prison authorities, who agreed to stop using the restraints.
“We will continue to monitor Mr. Hammar’s safety and well-being throughout his detention and continue to work with Mexican authorities to address any concerns regarding the progress of his case and treatment,” the official said.
CBP was less candid, saying that because of privacy concerns, the agency does not comment on the specifics of a person’s processing and does not provide advice regarding the laws of foreign governments.
Lydia Antonio, spokeswoman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, said: “The government of Mexico has no comments at this time on this issue.”
The Mexican ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan, recently reminded Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen in a letter that Mexico’s strong gun-control laws were the result of “the flow of weapons illicitly purchased in the U.S. and then trafficked into Mexico and into the hands of transnational criminal organizations.”
Mr. Hammar faces up to 15 years in a Mexican prison if convicted.
In her letter, Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said, “Jon and his friend trusted that the CBP agents were giving him the correct information, so they crossed into Mexico and attempted to register the shotgun legally.
“He was arrested immediately while trying to declare the shotgun. Jon was told he was being charged with possession of an assault rifle which is restricted for military use,” she said.
Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said Mr. Hammar initially was placed in the prison’s general population, where he was beaten by the other inmates. She said his parents immediately began receiving extortion calls from those inmates and were told their son would be killed unless the extortion money was paid. She said the inmates even forced the former Marine to speak to his parents on the phone and tell them to pay the money or he would be killed.
She said Mr. Hammar’s parents contacted the U.S. Consulate, which arranged for him to be removed from the general population. However, she said, he was then isolated in a room where he was shackled to his bed and the wall, which she called a clear violation of human rights. She said her office has since been assured by the State Department that Mr. Hammar is no longer being chained to his bed or the wall.
“This situation is unacceptable. Though the State Department has provided updates on Jon’s well-being, it has not provided details on what our government is doing to get him released from prison,” she said. “We urge the State Department to continue to press the Mexican authorities for a speedy resolution to this extremely unfortunate situation.
“We would like these matters resolved as quickly as possible so that Jon can return home to be with his family before Christmas,” she said. “Jon put his life on the line for our country, and the United States government has a responsibility to him and his family to do everything within its power to bring him home.”View Entire Story
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Jerry Seper is the investigative editor for The Washington Times.
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