Midnight Express (gq) Questions

I just saw Midnight Express, the ‘true story’ of Billy Hayes who got 30 years in a Turkish prison for smuggling hash. He and Oliver Stone made a movie about the experience and garnered Oscars (one for Best Screenplay Adaptation and one for Original Score).
My (I hope) GQ questions:

  1. This took place in 1973ish why does Billy making it to NYC make it all OK? Turkey is a NATO ally and Billy escaped from a Turkish prison – how does the USA not boot his fanny right back to Turkey once he starts making a writing - & making a movie -about how he escaped from prison?

  2. What happened to Billy? Last thing I see is he is at the Grammys in 1979 (& re Q no.1 above WTF?) what became of him?

  3. Is the movie basically true or did Stone & Billy take great and obvious liberties with the truth.

Darn… I clicked on this post thinking it was about the wrestling tag team…

I don’t know much about the original movie, but FYI the recent teenybopper drama Brokedown Palace is a remake of it.

  1. Don’t confuse being a member of NATO with extradition treaties. They are two entirely separate treaties and being a NATO member has no bearing on extradition. I have no idea what extradition agreements, if any, existed between the US and Turkey in 1973 but unless the treaty specifically mandated Billy’s return the US is under no obligation to do so. It may be, that absent a treaty, the US is prohibited from returning its citizens to foreign countries for prosecution (although I do not know that for certain).

Extradition can be a dicey thing even between allies. The US is certainly Israel’s most important ally yet several years ago a man fled the US to Israel to escape prosecution for murder. Israel, at the time, had some law on its books that said it would never extradite a jew to a foreign country. Israel was pretty embarrassed over the whole thing and the US was putting the pressure on to return the guy but Israeli law said what it said and AFAIK the guy was never sent back (IIRC Israel was trying to find a way to prosecute him in Israel to at least mollify the US but it’s been awhile and I am not sure what became of the whole thing). Since then I believe Israel has modified its laws to some extent to avoid a repeat of this situation.

  1. No idea.

  2. No idea but it is usually wise to take Hollywood’s version of history with a large grain of salt.

W-a-M, the story you’re thinking of is of a Washington, DC, suburb teen who (with another friend) killed another teen and tried futilly to dismember and burn his corpse. When suspicion turned to him, his dad sent him to Israel in an obvious attempt to cash in on his automatic citizenship (he was Jewish, though not practicing) once he landed there.

IIRC, he was eventually tried and convicted in Israel and is currently serving time there. Maryland officials were still miffed. Frankly, I don’t see why. They saved on the expense of a trial and the guy’s incarceration.

Yup…that’s the one. By any chance do you have more details on that so I can Google more info? Now that I’m reminded of it I’m curious how it all turned out (i.e. how long will the guy be imprisoned in Israel…did Israel modify its extradition laws, etc.).

Also, more to the point of the OP, does anyone know of a complete listing of extradition treaties the US has with foreign countries? Better still a site that distills the relevant upshot of these treaties (I don’t feel like reading a hundred treaties to get an answer)?

Well not every state actually has an extradition treaty with each other state… A man wanted for murder in Massachusetts, I think, came to Florida, lived as a model citizen, and was married with 2 children when the authorities in the state he was wanted in found out where he was. Governor Bob Graham (now a Senator) refused to extradite him and he’s still here today. I’m still looking for the article…

Who says that Turkey wanted him back? Considering his experience (and from what I understand the film left out a lot of what was in the book), it’s doubtful that Turkey would ever have to worry about him showing up as a tourist.


according to this interview with Billy Hayes. He touches on one of the significant changes made in the movie.