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Mexico detains 81-year-old for illegal Valium

George Murl
George Murl, a United States citizen from California, was arrested in Mexico three weeks ago for drug trafficking. Murl, who suffers from prostate cancer, crossed the border to purchase drugs without a prescription  

Thelma Gutierrez

From Thelma Gutierrez

TIJUANA, Mexico (CNN) -- In a county hospital in Tijuana, Mexico, an 81-year-old World War II veteran is handcuffed to a bed.

His name is George Murl and for the past three weeks the frail California resident has been a prisoner. He's charged with drug trafficking for buying 600 Valium pills without a prescription.

"I didn't kill anybody. I didn't rob a bank," Murl said. "I knew I was (breaking the law), but I didn't realize how harsh it was."

Murl has prostate cancer and says Valium eases the pain and helps him sleep. He has been buying medication in Mexico for years, he said, because it's cheaper and easier than in the United States.

But this time, he went to Tijuana to buy an extra supply without a prescription because he's moving to Ohio, and he was caught.

That initially landed him in a state penitentiary. But because his health has deteriorated, he was moved to a hospital, where doctors say he has refused to eat.

Doctor, lawyer hopeful

"If he lets us intervene, he has a good chance to get out alive," said his physician, Dr. Clemente Zuniga.

Murl's case has received international media attention, but Mexican officials say he's one of dozens of Americans arrested for buying certain medications without valid prescriptions.

Mexican pharmacy
Dozens of Americans have been arrested in Mexico for buying certain types of medications without a valid prescription  

Murl may be exonerated because of his age and serious medical condition, or he could be found guilty and fined, said his attorney, Francisco Bazan, who has defended six other Americans in similar predicaments.

But while there's a good chance Murl will go home, Bazan cautioned others to heed Mexican law.

"They must have a Mexican prescription," said. "Americans have to know they will face five to 15 years without bail if they break the law."

• U.S. Food and Drug Administration

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