A former Marine held for months in a Mexican prison has been released and reunited with his family just in time for Christmas, the State Department confirmed on Saturday.
Jon Hammar was released thanks to intervention from members of Congress after being held prisoner since mid-August. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and other members of the Florida delegation had pressed the State Department to ensure his release.
"We had over 70 members who signed a bipartisan letter to [Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton and [Secretary of Homeland Security] Janet Napolitano demanding that they get active on this case because up to then, all we were hearing were status reports of Jon shackled to his bed," Ros-Lehtinen said Friday night on Fox News's "The O'Reilly Factor." "So it took a lot of congressional pressure and it took a lot of media attention."
She also said it required a full day of effort on-site by officials from the State Department, Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration Services to process Hammar once Mexican authorities agreed to his release.
"We sincerely appreciate the efforts on the part of Mexican authorities to ensure that an appropriate resolution was made in accordance with Mexican law, and that Mr. Hammar will be free to spend the holidays with his loved ones," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a statement.
Hammar, who sufferers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder due to multiple combat tours in Southwest Asia, was arrested for attempting to bring a firearm - reportedly an antique shotgun - across the U.S.-Mexico border. He had crossed the border on his way to Costa Rica for a surfing trip with a fellow Marine Corps veteran.