cover image Nightmare Abroad: Stories of Americans Imprisoned in Foreign Lands

Nightmare Abroad: Stories of Americans Imprisoned in Foreign Lands

Peter Laufer. Mercury House, $20 (208pp) ISBN 978-1-56279-028-8

The outgrowth of an NBC radio documentary on U.S. citizens held in foreign prisons, this eye-opening survey should be read by any one traveling abroad. Laufer ( Iron Curtain Rising ), who visited Americans jailed in 21 countries, emphasizes three major points: that most nations adhere to the Napoleonic code, which presumes the accused to be guilty until proven innocent; that few nations grant bail between arrest and trial; and that the State department will rarely intervene to aid an accused or convicted American for fear of upsetting relations with the host country. ``Crimes'' discussed range from the utterly trumped-up to the naive (e.g., unwitting smuggling) to traffic violations to peddling drugs, and sentences range from the barbaric (amputations) to incarceration in so-called country-club prisons. While it's hard to sympathize with, for example, the longtime heroin smuggler who whines about her 47-and-a-half-year sentence in Thailand, Laufer's evenhanded presentation alerts readers to the pervasiveness of human-rights violations and to the vastly uneven quality of justice overseas. (Jan.)