MIAMI - U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the parents of Jon Hammar, a veteran of the Marines currently jailed in Mexico, pleaded for help Thursday in securing his release.
"President Obama, if you are listening, we need you to advocate for Jon Hammar. He needs to come home. This has gone on way too long," said Jessica Fernandez, a friend of Hammar.
Ros-Lehtinen said that her office has received the signatures of 25 members of Congress asking for Hammar's release "who are just as outraged as I was to hear that a United States Marine veteran was being held in a Mexican prison since August on these trumped up gun charges."
The family went public with his story because they said drug cartels have threatened Hammar's life.
"'We have him.' They put him on the phone, 'We are going to kill him if you don't wire money into this account,'" said Olivia Hammar, his mother.
On Wednesday, Ros-Lehtinen echoed the same sentiments on the Floor of the House of Representatives. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has made similar requests.
Hammar planned a road trip to Costa Rica with another Marine over the summer. That plan came to a halt at the border in Brownsville, where Hammar was stopped because he had his great grandfather's shotgun.
Mexican authorities are prosecuting Hammar for possession of a deadly weapon, a charge his lawyer says could result in a 12-year prison term if found guilty. According to the family, Hammar was told by U.S. Customs and Border Protection that he could bring the gun into Mexico if it was registered and a fee was paid.
Hammar, who toured in both Iraq and Afghanistan, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. His mother credited his faith in God for his ability to endure his time in jail.
"My husband said, 'You know, they may not let you take anything out,' and he said, 'They are not taking my Bible,'" said Olivia Hammar. "A lesser person would have pleaded guilty because they have brought him in without counsel and harassed him."
"So, when you go home tonight and you sleep in your comfortable bed, think of what Jon Hammar is going through, chained to his bed," said Ros-Lehtinen.
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