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. inyourface73

    what the hell is wrong with these people? Going into these countries, meddling in their affairs, and suprise suprise. they arrest you! I bet there are people from all over the world jailed right here in the US for trumped up and charges, but we don"t hear about it. Either way you look at it. going to Iran, North Korea and Cuba in hostile times, and interfering with gov't is a DUMB move.

    September 21, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • conradshull

      No, we don't jail people for setting up internet connections or going to church or asking if citizens might have some say in how they are governed. Stop haranguing about the mote in America's eye while you ignore the log, no the forest, in Cuba, Iran and North Korea's eyes.

      September 21, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy©

    How about a profile of all the other nationalities that are in our prisons?
    Why should anyone think that Americans are some rarified people above the mere laws of another country?
    I love my country, but yeesh!

    September 21, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marek Boudain

      Well said. Americans have a collective mental illness, they always justify their own actions and act like victims which needs to change. Europeans criticize themselves and constantly fix themselves and their actions while Americans get worse by day. The problem is, you can't even start such an argument with an American, they will never accept any wrongdoings and attack you in return, call you anti-American, accuse you of not being patriotic, and even go to the extremes like labeling you a terrorist. Europeans try their soldiers if they misbehave in foreign countries while Americans cover it all up and their soldiers are heros regardless when they return. The mindset in this country right now is beyond ridiculous.

      September 21, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reality

      Have any of you lived outside of America? I'm talking lived and not traveled. Save for Western Europe, you are completely out of your mind if you try to compare our freedoms to the freedoms of anywhere else. I'm not saying we are perfect, but this constant talk about how horrible we are is just as bad as the talk about how exceptional we are. And the poster that thinks Europe is the almighty beacon of hope, look at treatment of the Turkish immigrants in Germany. Or even the treatment of Muslims in France or Switzerland. Worse yet, live in Eastern Europe and witness the xenophobia that exists there. We don't always get it all right, but show me a world hegemon throughout history that acted more responsible. Some people need some perspective.

      September 25, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Turban

    Its ALAN Gross, not David

    September 21, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. David

    Maybe all these people might appreciate the good ole UNITED STATES a lttle more.

    September 21, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Katie

    The caption under the photo says "Lisa Ling"....it was Laura Ling...

    September 21, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. PaulC

    It's hard to get in the minds of the people but it COULD be they are looking for their 15 minutes of fame knowing the good ol' USA will ride to their rescue with a $1 million ransom.

    September 21, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Drivel

    conreadshull, WE don't, but THEY do! Any reason why other countries should change their law because an American is traveling there?
    No. Keep your eye on the ball, Sparky, and follow the path to reason....when in Rome...

    September 21, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Profile of 40% of US Prison inmates

    1.) 40% of our prison population are openly gay. This does not include those in the closet ward.

    September 21, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Profile of 40% of US Prison inmates

    2.) The idea that they were born that way, or that "bars" did this to them is laughable at best. Just as a man would risk his own life protecting his own son from men violently enflamed for the boy, he would be willing to die protecting himself.

    September 21, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Wildcat

    Stupid is as stupid does!

    September 21, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. LB Colorado

    When traveling abroad, you are always at risk of their government and their rules. Go there, and take your chances. This should be the same for them coming here. Keep in mind, you are immigrant of their country and they don't want you there.

    September 21, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. @LB Colorado

    Your post reminds me of how Texans are treated during hunting season in Colorado...especially up Grand Mesa way.

    September 21, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. erich2112x

    Back when I was in high school there were these two kids from our rival school that happened on to our campus. They thought we'd be tolerant of it since they were't really all that loyal to their own school in fact they didn't even like going there. We kicked their a$ses anyway.

    September 21, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jordan scene©

    It might seem insensitive, but if we just let those people serve out their sentences abroad, it would send a loud and clear message to these nin kun poops. DO NOT GO WHERE YOU DON'T BELONG! Besides I wonder how many people of foreign origins we have rotting away in our prison systems...

    September 21, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. RUFFNUTT (kcmo , egg poacher)

    america has lost it ba ll s...

    September 21, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
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