- Ex-U.S. Marine jailed in Mexico wins back his freedom
- China bans alcohol in military banquets to curb graft
- Four South Korean workers kidnapped in Nigeria freed: reports
Posted: 21 Dec 2012 07:45 PM PST
MIAMI (Reuters) - A former U.S. Marine jailed in a notoriously violent part of northern Mexico was released on Friday after being held prisoner four months for possessing a shotgun that was a family heirloom, according to a member of the U.S. Congress.
After speaking with the family of Jon Hammar, U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida said she was able to confirm the 27-year-old man had been released "and is back safely in the United States."
Olivia Hammar of Miami, the mother of the Iraq War veteran, said Mexican authorities had decided to drop all charges against her troubled son, whose case grabbed the U.S. media spotlight and stirred controversy earlier this month, after determining that he never intended to commit a crime in Mexico.
The decision to release Hammar was announced in a press release on Friday morning from the office of Florida Senator Bill Nelson, who said he got the news from the Mexican Embassy in Washington.
"We're grateful; this is a good Christmas present," Nelson said.
Hammar was heading to Costa Rica to go surfing when he crossed into Matamoros, Mexico, from Brownsville, Texas, in mid-August in a beat-up old Winnebago motor home he and a friend bought especially for the trip.
He had registered the shotgun with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials on the U.S. side of the border, declaring he planned to take it with him into Mexico.
Despite being told that the shotgun, a Sear & Roebuck model that once belonged to his great-grandfather, posed no problem, Hammar was arrested as soon as he crossed into Mexico. The arrest came when he tried to register the gun with Mexican customs officials, Olivia Hammar said.
The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City said Hammar was charged with possession of a deadly weapon. The family lawyer, Eddie Varon-Levy, had said Hammar faced up to 12 years in prison if he was found guilty.
Making matters worse, Hammar suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from his combat experience and the death of a fellow Marine who was killed by a sniper's bullet when the two served together in Falluja, Iraq. He had just completed treatment for PTSD at a centre for veterans in California last year.
His ordeal in Matamoros, in one of the most violent parts of Mexico, included being shackled to a bed and receiving death threats and extortion demands from drug cartel gangsters who run the prison like their personal fiefdom, Hammar's parents said.
Olivia Hammar said her husband, Jon Hammar Sr., had flown down to south Texas from Miami to pick up his son at or near the prison.
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 21 Dec 2012 07:11 PM PST
BEIJING (Reuters) - China has banned senior military officers from holding alcohol- fuelled banquets or from staying in luxury hotels when on work trips in the latest move by Communist Party chief Xi Jinping to fight corruption, state media reported on Saturday.
Receptions will also no longer feature welcome banners, red carpets, flowers, honour guards, performances or souvenirs, the powerful Central Military Commission, which Xi oversees, has decreed, major newspapers reported.
Officers will have to cut back on both the number and length of inspection tours, overseas visits, meetings and reports, according to the new rules.
Speakers at meetings should avoid "empty talk", while the use of vehicles equipped with sirens will be "rigorously controlled during official visits in order to prevent public disturbances".
"Additionally, commission officials are required to discipline their spouses, children and subordinates and make sure they do not take bribes."
The rules echo similar demands made of party officials by Xi earlier this month.
The party, which has shown no sign of giving up its tight grip on power, has struggled to contain public anger at a seemingly endless stream of corruption scandals, particularly when officials are seen as abusing their posts to amass wealth.
China intensified a crackdown on rampant corruption in the military in the late 1990s, banning the People's Liberation Army from engaging in business. But it has crept back in recent years due to a lack of transparency, checks and balances and moral decay.
A senior officer, Lieutenant General Gu Junshan, was sacked earlier this year in what Hong Kong media have said would be the biggest military corruption scandal since the Communists swept to power in 1949, though details have not been officially announced.
Xi, who takes over as president from Hu Jintao at the annual meeting of parliament in March, warned shortly after becoming party boss that the country risked unrest if graft is not tackled.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 21 Dec 2012 07:02 PM PST
SEOUL (Reuters) - Four South Korean employees of Hyundai Heavy Industries, who were abducted earlier this week in Nigeria, have been released, local media reported on Saturday, quoting unnamed government officials in Seoul.
The four hostages had been handed over to South Korean officials in the African country late on Friday, Yonhap news agency and YTN TV said.
There was no immediate comment from either the South Korean government or Hyundai Heavy Industries.
Gunmen kidnapped the four working on Hyundai's operations in the Niger Delta region on Monday.
Kidnapping is rife in Africa's top oil producer, making millions of dollars a year for criminal gangs. It is common across the south, especially in the Niger Delta.
(Reporting by Sung-won Shim; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
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