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Former Marine Hammar to be freed in Mexico

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- A Mexican judge ruled to free former U.S. Marine Jon Hammar, imprisoned in Mexico for contravening a gun law by bringing in an antique shotgun.

Hammar, 27, declared the weapon, a disassembled, 60-year-old Sears & Roebuck shotgun of his great-grandfather's, suitable for bird and rabbit hunting, at the Mexico-U.S. border. Mexican authorities later charged him with a serious crime, possession of a weapon outlawed by the Mexican armed forces, and jailed him in the notorious Matamoros prison, The Miami Herald reported Friday.

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U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., announced news of his impending release, and the dropping of all charges, Friday in Washington.

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

The court ruling Friday came as a surprise, the newspaper said, since Mexican Ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhan earlier this week wrote Hammar had been properly arrested for the "federal crime" of carrying a shotgun "restricted for the exclusive use of the Mexican armed Forces."

Earlier this month Hammar's family in the Miami area began a public effort to get him freed. U.S. lawmakers urged Mexico to drop the felony charges, which could have kept the Afghanistan and Iraq war veteran behind bars for 12 years, the New York Daily News said Friday.

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