SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

December 22, 2012

Marine veteran detained for months released from Mexican jail

(Continued)

U.S. officials intervened, and Hammar was separated from the general inmate population but still spent much of his time chained to a bed to keep him from fleeing.

McClatchy Newspapers, The Herald’s parent company, first reported on Hammar’s plight Dec. 6, when his family decided to go public with the case. Lawmakers responded quickly. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., exhorted Mexico to release Hammar. Ros-Lehtinen, the family’s congresswoman, used her position as chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to put pressure on U.S. and Mexican authorities.

She lashed out at the Obama administration for what she said was a failure to offer details on efforts to free Hammar and persuaded scores of her congressional colleagues to sign letters to the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security on Hammar’s behalf.

Ros-Lehtinen took to Twitter yesterday morning to publicize Hammar’s imminent release after his mother called the congresswoman’s Washington office.

“We couldn’t believe it, but prayers and hard work really paid off,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “It looks like we will have him home for Christmas.”

Nelson, whose office also spoke to Hammar’s mother, said an aide to a legal representative of the Mexican attorney general’s office confirmed the pending release. The U.S. Consulate is standing by to escort Hammar back to the United States.

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

Ros-Lehtinen, who held a news conference at her Miami office last week with several dozen of Hammar’s family and friends, praised the community for rallying to publicize his case. An online petition to free Hammar, created by his younger sister, Katie, had more than 26,000 signatures as of Friday morning. Earlier this week, Miami-Dade commissioners approved a resolution, sponsored by Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, calling for Hammar’s release.

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