A grassroots movement is drawing attention to the plight of U.S. Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who has been languishing in a Mexican jail, and has attracted the attention of lawmakers and building support on social media for government intervention to secure his release.
Tahmooressi, of Weston, Fla., served two tours in Afghanistan and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, depression and anxiety, for which he was being treated in San Diego until he was arrested by Mexican authorities and jailed in La Mesa prison in Tijuana on March 31, according to CBS Miami.
He was arrested just over the southern United States border from San Diego after taking a wrong turn in his truck, according to his mother Jill Tahmooressi. He was detained on gun charges because he had with him three firearms legally obtained in the U.S., when he was intercepted by Mexican authorities, Marine Corps Times reported.
“He called me when he reached the border and said, ‘Mom, I want you to know where I’m at because I made a wrong turn, I ended up in Mexico and the Mexican officials are encompassing the truck,'” his mother said, according to CBS Miami.
Tahmooressi was later transported to El Hongo Prison in Tecate, Mexico, where he is being held. The Marine's plight has come under increasing media spotlight in the wake of President Barack Obama's controversial decision last month to trade five terror suspects for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive in Afghanistan and is now undergoing outpatient care in the U.S.
On Monday, social media users led a drive to draw attention to Tahmooressi's imprisonment and pressure the government to take steps to ensure he is released soon.
From 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. Monday, supporters of the cause used the #BringBackOurMarine hashtag to organize tweets about the topic, causing the tag to be one of the national trending topics on Twitter for most of the evening.
The movement has also drawn the attention of federal lawmakers like U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who held a rally in support of the Marine's release on Sunday, according to Fox News Latino.
"Where is the outrage, and where are our highest elected officials calling and demanding his release, or at the very least a real day in court?" she said at the rally.
Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) even went so far as to visit Tahmooressi in the Tecate prison on Saturday, Fox News reported.
"I found him to be in good spirits, but this visit confirmed my belief that Sgt. Tahmooressi ... needs to come home," Royce, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement after the visit.
Concerns about Tahmooressi's mental and physical well-being have reportedly made the matter of ensuring his timely release more urgent. Royce stated that Tahmooressi needs to return to treatment for his PTSD, and that the soldier told his mother that he had been threatened with death.
“He called me one night and he said in a panicked voice, he said, ‘Mom I’m not going to make it through the night. There’s hit men in here, they have told me they are going to kill me. They’re going to rape and then torture and murder me and they’re going to send me out in a body bag,’” Jill Tahmooressi said, according to CBS Miami.