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Mexico drops drug charges against 81-year-old man

George Murl
Murl began a hunger strike after he was arrested for trying to buy drugs without a prescription.  

From Thelma Gutierrez

TIJUANA, Mexico (CNN) -- An 81-year-old World War II veteran arrested on charges of purchasing Valium without a prescription was cleared of all charges Wednesday and ordered released.

Mexican authorities arrested George Murl, of Oxnard, California, on May 24 for buying 600 Valium pills without a prescription. He said he needed the medication to ease the pain of his prostate cancer and to help him sleep.

Judge Gerardo Garcia held a hearing at Murl's bedside Wednesday with the district attorney and Murl's attorney present. Garcia exonerated Murl of all charges, citing an article of Mexico's penal code that allows the waiving of a sentence for someone who is ill or elderly.

Murl, a veteran of the World War II battle of Iwo Jima, was jailed on a charge of possessing drugs with intent to sell. He launched a hunger strike to protest his arrest, saying he would not eat until he was returned to the United States or they will "have to bring me over in a box."

He lost 25 pounds during his hunger strike and was transferred from Mexican state penitentiary to a hospital in Tijuana -- where guards handcuffed him to his bed.

Geriatrics specialist Clemente Zuniga said that if Murl did not get care such as intravenous fluids within days or started eating again, he could die.

Francisco Bazan, Murl's attorney, and a pastor were to drive Murl home later Wednesday. Bazan, who has defended six other Americans in similar predicaments, 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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