SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

December 22, 2012

Marine veteran detained for months released from Mexican jail

MIAMI — Jon Hammar, the Marine veteran from South Florida detained for months in a Mexican border prison for bringing his great-grandfather’s shotgun into the country, was released yesterday in what his mother calls a “Christmas miracle.”

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., confirmed in a statement last night that Hammar had been released and was “back safely in the United States.”

Hammar’s mother, Olivia, said she and her husband were awakened with a 2:30 a.m. phone call from Hammar’s defense attorney sharing news of their son’s impending release. Hammar’s father, Jon, quickly found a flight to Texas.

“We made it from our house in Palmetto Bay to the airport in 11 minutes,” she told The Miami Herald. “This is our Christmas miracle.”

The elder Hammar waited for his son, who has been held since August in a prison in Matamoros, Mexico, across the border in Brownsville, Texas. They will likely remain there for a few days, Olivia Hammar said, because her son is interested in getting back the 1972 Winnebago motor home — and some nine surfboards he was transporting — from Mexican authorities.

Hammar was arrested Aug. 13 when he and a fellow Marine veteran, who were headed to Costa Rica to surf, tried to cross into Mexico. Hammar had been told by U.S. authorities he could declare a six-decades-old .410 bore Sears & Roebuck shotgun at the border. The firearm is suitable for shooting rabbits and birds.

But Mexican authorities dismissed Hammar’s U.S. registration papers for the disassembled relic. Prosecutors charged him with a serious crime: possession of a weapon restricted for use to Mexico’s armed forces.

Hammar was sent to the Matamoros prison, where, at one point, inmates affiliated with local drug cartels called Hammar’s parents to try to extort money from them.

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