A look at other Americans who were jailed abroad
Euna Lee and Lisa Ling were released from prison in North Korea in 2009.
September 21st, 2011
11:56 AM ET

A look at other Americans who were jailed abroad

As word came Wednesday that two American hikers were released from their two-year imprisonment in Iran, CNN looked at some other cases of U.S. citizens jailed in other countries.


* December 2009 - Alan Gross was jailed while working in Cuba as a subcontractor on a U.S. Agency for International Development project aimed at spreading democracy. Cuban authorities deemed his actions illegal. He was accused of trying set up illegal Internet connections, but Gross says he was trying to help connect the Jewish community to the Internet and was not a threat to the government. In August 2010, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, on a trade mission to Cuba, pressed the island nation to free Gross. In March, Gross was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison for crimes against the Cuban state. President Jimmy Carter failed to get Gross freed after visiting Cuba and arguing he should be released because his mother and daughter were battling cancer. This month, Richardson will go back to Cuba on a private mission. Gross is still in prison.


* July 2009 - Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd were accused of illegally crossing into Iran while hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan near its border with Iran. Shourd was released for medical reasons; Bauer and Fattal were convicted last month of entering Iran illegally and spying for the United States. Both were sentenced to eight years in prison but were released on bail on Wednesday.

* June 2009 – Iranian-Canadian journalist Mazier Bahari, then a reporter for Newsweek, was incarcerated during protests sparked by the Iranian election. He was released in October 2009 and has written a memoir about the experience called "Then They Came for Me."

* January 2009 - American journalist Roxana Saberi was arrested in Iran. That April, the Iranian government charged her with espionage, a charge she denies. She was sentenced to eight years in prison and sent to Evin Prison, the same lockup where the American hikers were jailed. The facility is notorious for reported torture and extreme psychological mistreatment of inmates. An appeals court reduced the charge from espionage to possessing classified information, which she also denied. The sentence was reduced to two years, and she was released in May 2009.

* May 2008 - Reza Taghavi, an Iranian-American and retired businessman from Orange County, California, was detained in Iran on suspicion of supporting an anti-regime group. Taghavi's lawyer, Pierre-Richard Prosper, negotiated Taghavi's release, which occurred in October 2010.

* May 2007 - Iranian-American scholar Haleh Esfandiari, of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, was imprisoned for several months in Evin Prison on suspicion that the Wilson Center was part of an effort to topple the Iranian government. She was released in August 2007 and later wrote the book “My Prison, My Home.”

North Korea:

* April 12, 2011 - American Eddie Yong Su Jun  was detained in North Korea. On April 14, Korean state news reported that Yong Su Jun was arrested in November 2010 and had been under investigation for committing a crime against North Korea. No details on the alleged crime were provided. In May, following a visit from an American delegation including Robert King, the special envoy for North Korean human rights, and Jon Brause, the deputy assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Yong Su Jun was released.

* January 25, 2010 – Aijalon Mahli Gomes of Boston was detained in North Korea after crossing into the country illegally from China. He had formerly taught English in South Korea. In April 2010, Gomes was sentenced to eight years of hard labor and ordered to pay a fine of 70 million won, or approximately $600,000. Later that summer he was hospitalized after attempting suicide, and in August President Carter went to Pyongyang and successfully argued for Gomes’ release. The two left North Korea after leader Kim Jong-Il agreed based on humanitarian purposes.

* March 2009 - Journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling crossed into North Korea and were apprehended by North Korean soldiers. They were charged with illegal entry to conduct a smear campaign. In June 2009, the women were sentenced to 12 years hard labor in a North Korean prison with no forgiveness and no appeal allowed. But later that summer President Clinton went to Pyongyang on a private humanitarian mission and met with Kim Jong-Il. The reporters were released in August after 140 days in captivity. L Laura Ling wrote this op-ed for CNN.com about the American hikers.

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Filed under: Cuba • Iran • North Korea
soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. chillipepper

    You gotta have a death wish to set foot in alot of these above mentioned countries.

    September 21, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Schmedley

    Not sure what these people are thinking because in these countries:

    1) If they know you are an American, they know you can be used as a bargaining chip for money and/or political favors
    2) These countries have little or no individual rights so if you're caught, they can do whatever they want and there isn't that much anyone can do to help you.

    Get a clue people...

    September 21, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. DEW

    so this is the story we will be hearing for the next month, and about the man that post to died tonight.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Logan

    The caption for the picture was wrong, Lisa was not imprisoned in North Korea. Come on CNN.

    September 22, 2011 at 3:23 am | Report abuse |
    • DocOdi

      Yes; she was. Read a newspaper, you'll learn something.

      September 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • varanasi

      it was Laura Ling who was captured, Lisa Ling's sister

      September 22, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • To DocOdi

      He's right, it was Laura not Lisa...perhaps we should verify things before villifying others...

      September 22, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kana

      @To DocOdi – No, we don't have the time to verify the information the media provides us as it is always true and factual. This way we can make our irrational decisions based on a news article and try and convict others in the court of public opinion. Fact?! what do we need facts for?

      October 8, 2011 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  5. maryosborne

    Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last week that the two men had been granted a “unilateral pardon.” http://bit.ly/ota3XU

    September 22, 2011 at 5:20 am | Report abuse |
  6. Frog Prince

    "Evin Prison............. The facility is notorious for reported torture and extreme psychological mistreatment of inmates"

    Hmmmmmmmmm...........and what do you think about Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib? Pleasure palaces?

    September 22, 2011 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Kana

      I would venture a guess that overall, prisoners held in in US custody are treated better than those held in prisons of the countries noted in this article. Even with the exception of a few isolated incidents.

      October 8, 2011 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  7. Patrick

    Any American near one of these countries boarders that gets caught should be left in that countries prisons. What idiot thinks it is a good idea to go for a hike along the Iranian boarder, or the North Korean boarder? Waste of time and energy spent on these moron's.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
  8. Snoot

    The most sure-fire way to tour the bungholes of the world is by enlisting.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  9. Hey You

    Don't these sound like fun ideas:
    -Let's go hiking within a few yards of an invisible line in a God-forsaken, remote area. Oh, and if you cross the line you are in a country that is very hostile to where you are from.
    -Let's sneak into a country that wants to imprison/kill all foreigners.

    When you set out to take a massive risk with your life, you should not be too surprised when you roll craps. And since it was your idea in the first place, why should everyone else spend massive resources to bail you out? The rule of gambling – if you can't accept the downside, don't gamble.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  10. pastafaria

    At least Iran and North Korea only imprison foreigners who commit alleged crimes within their borders. For the last ten years, U.S. Military and the CIA have been abducting so-called terrorists from their home countries and imprisoning them in Guantanamo bay as well as secret detention centers all over the world without the courtesy of even a sham trial.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
  11. Sindhi

    What about a look at Pakistanis, Iranians, Afghans, Iraqis and Libyans, Cubans, Koreans, Jailed in America. Shift of words from here to there!

    September 22, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Vítor Vieira

    Let's think: what would the US do if a Cuban goes to New York and deliver a secure satellite communication system to, say... the Communist Party USA (cpusa.org). What would the FBI, CIA and NSA do? Would they let it go? Would let the cuban go home? I don't think so... just remember those 5 cubans who where imprisoned in Miami because they advised the US Government that some Cuban exilees were preparing terror attacks...

    September 23, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. onefeather

    People Know this is war time and if you are so Stupid to go into these places and think that you will be ok, then you get what you deserve.Wake up to the fact that they Do Not Care what you tell them that you are not a spy, do you think they care what you say and where you are even if you are right..No wonder there are so many problems, people who don't think and have no clue what thinking even is.

    September 24, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joseph Zrnchik

    These guys were Jews men infiltrating Iran. This was a "Spies Like Us" Mossad operation.

    The US funded terror groups like the MEK and the PPK to conduct terror attacks and sabotage in Iran. Israel has assassinated Iranians by dozens, and also funded the MEK and PPK to attack Iran while also working to sabotage Iran's nuclear program. They are lucky to be alive. These guys were Jews who like the Israeli Jews in the US knew 9/11 was going to happen and then cheered when it did happen as they watched.

    So, these guys were lucky they were not Iranians caught in the US otherwise they would be tortured and given 75 years buy the US inJustisce System ay Gitmo.

    So don't sit there with your Zionist media friends and try to use this as a reason the US should go to war with Iran. These spys ought to be dead. My advice is to tell Jews to stay out of Iran while Israel is funding a terror campaign inside the country.

    This is coming from a retired Army officer. Israel is an enemy and it trying to drum up war between Iran and the U.S. Be forewarned.

    September 26, 2011 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
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