Stories of Americans Imprisoned in Foreign Lands
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 Radio-journalist Laufer (Iron Curtain Rising, 1991) visited Americans imprisoned in 21 countries for this readable if often superficial look at how travelers run afoul of the law abroad--and what happens when they do. Annually, over 10,000 Americans experience trouble with the law overseas. Today, thousands are incarcerated--some on apparently trumped-up charges, others for offenses that include the serious (homicide; drug-smuggling) as well as incidents that are not crimes at home (traffic accidents; possession of videos or Bibles; the inadvertent exceeding of credit-card limits). Prisoners in relatively comfortable penal systems seem satisfied with the attentions they've received from US representatives, but detainees who've experienced torture, roach-infested food, and filthy conditions find embassy and consular representatives to be unsympathetic, ineffective apologists for dictatorial regimes. Prisoners and families credit public outcry and opinion for preventing executions and amputations. Laufer warns that, in most foreign legal systems, the accused is guilty until proven innocent, and long periods of pretrial detention--with no bail--are common. Exchange treaties that allow Americans to serve their sentences in the US--an option many prisoners don't exercise because foreign lock-ups may offer more freedom and less violence than our own- -provide no relief for detainees still awaiting trial. After dozens of scare stories, Laufer urges Americans to travel (but not to drive); provides very basic precautionary advice (``Language provides some access into cultural differences''; ``adopting a loud `Don't-mess-with-me-I'm-an-American' attitude'' can be counterproductive); and introduces the International Legal Defense Council, specialists in representing Americans overseas. A decent spanning-the-globe overview. (Photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Jan. 21st, 1993
ISBN: 1-56279-028-5
Page count: 194pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1992


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