Killer GI seeks malaria-drug re­view

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL -

WASHINGTON — Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales has asked an Army court for a spe­cial hear­ing to ex­plore ev­i­dence that his mas­sacre of 16 Afghan civil­ians may have been tied to a malaria drug given to troops that is known to cause hal­lu­ci­na­tions, anx­i­ety and para­noia.

Dur­ing a hear­ing Tues­day at Fort Belvoir, Va., a sub­ject-mat­ter ex­pert for Bales, for­mer Army public health physi­cian Dr. Rem­ing­ton Nevin, sub­mit­ted af­fi­davits ar­gu­ing that Bales likely ex­pe­ri­enced hal­lu­ci­na­tions and psy­chosis re­lated to ei­ther tak­ing meflo­quine, also known by the brand name Lariam, in Afghanistan or pre­vi­ously in Iraq.

The pre­scrip­tion was not con­sid­ered dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and his le­gal team is us­ing this in a re­quest for the U.S. Army Court of Crim­i­nal Ap­peals to re­view Bales’ life sen­tence without pa­role in the killings that took place March 11, 2012, in Kan­da­har province.

Meflo­quine is a malaria treat­ment med­i­ca­tion that was com­monly used by the U.S. mil­i­tary as a pro­phy­lac­tic in malaria en­demic re­gions, taken once a week by troops. It has been con­tro­ver­sial since its com­mer­cial in­tro­duc­tion in 1989, as it is known to cause neu­ro­log­i­cal and vestibu­lar prob­lems in a small per­cent­age of users.

Shortly af­ter Bales mur­dered the Afghan civil­ians on March 11, 2012, re­tired Army psy­chi­a­trist Col. El­speth Cameron Ritchie raised ques­tions as to whether Bales had been tak­ing meflo­quine dur­ing his de­ploy­ment or on his pre­vi­ous three trips to Iraq. In 2013, Bales pleaded guilty in ex­change for drop­ping the death penalty in his case.

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