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The 26-year sentence handed down to American Amanda Knox in Italy last Friday sparked fiery debate about the fairness of international trials. Convicted of murdering her roommate with a knife, the evidence was largely based on demonizing her character as a sinister sex-freak, and serious doubts have been raised about her guilt. Although the American judicial system is no stranger to wrongful convictions or false imprisonments, mass media heightens the coverage when U.S. citizens get locked up in foreign territories - usually due to the detainee's affluent status.

Each year over 3,000 Americans are arrested abroad, with the majority occurring in Mexico, likely due to its close proximity to the States. And the punishments range in severity. So to put Knox's sentence into perspective and to avoid similar scenarios, here's some other high-profile detainments of Yankees on foreign soil ...  


Johnny Cash, El Paso, Texas, 1965
• Step your stash spot up. While on tour in Mexico, authorities arrested The Man In Black after finding hundreds of tranquilizers, amphetamines and prescription pills in his guitar case. D'oh! Claiming that the drugs were for "medicinal use", Cash pled guilty to a misdemeanor, paid $1,000 and got a suspended sentence. He also spent a night in jail, which may have not been so bad considering that he probably hadn't slept in weeks.   



Michael Fay, Singapore, Thailand, 1994  
• Not all countries settle for community service. While living with his mother and step dad in Singapore, a bored 18-year-old Fay got involved in vandalizing some neighborhood cars and stealing traffic signs. He and his co-defendant from Hong Kong were convicted and faced the cruel and unusual punishment of caning. Despite widespread media coverage and intervention from President Clinton, the Singaporean authorities carried out the caning and delivered four strokes [II]. 


Lori Berenson, Lima, Peru, 1995  
• When deciding to act on your revolutionary ideals, be aware of the potential consequences. Former MIT student, Lori Berenson, was nabbed on a bus in downtown Lima and sentenced to life for allegedly leading a left-wing insurgent organization, MRTA. After intense international pressure, her sentence was reduced to 20 years. She later married a fellow prisoner and gave birth to a baby boy in prison this year. Her advocates claim that the anti-terrorism laws used for her conviction lack due process and violate international law. To clarify, she's not held in Guantanamo, in case there was any confusion.  



Dallas Austin, Dubai, UAE, 2006 
• If you plan on experiencing Dubai and all its gaudy amenities, remember to leave the nose candy at home. Grammy-winning producer, Dallas Austin, learned the hard way and received a four-year bid after officials found over a gram of coke and some ecstasy pills while heading to Naomi Campbell's b-day function. A robust coalition - including Lionel Ritchie and Sen. Orrin Hatch - rushed to Austin's defense and convinced authorities to issue a pardon. On his return, Austin's supporters likely said, "it's OK to floss/ but it's still one rule, player, don't get caught."


Laura Ling and Euna Lee, North Korea, 2009 
• Don't place too much trust in tour guides, especially while reporting on ostracized regimes. While embarking on a story to uncover human rights abuses in North Korea, the two Current TV journalists got betrayed by their travel companion and were arrested near the Chinese border.  It looked like the duo was up shits creek with a 12-year hard labor sentence, until Bubba flew in, sprinkled some diplomatic charisma and took the ladies home on his private jet. "Unfortunately, Hillary couldn't be here tonight."



Three American Hikers, Iran Border, 2009
• While choosing a post-grad vacation spot, the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan may not be the wisest destination. Three U.C. Berkeley alumni's - Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal - were arrested and charged with espionage by Iranian authorities after the trio allegedly drifted into Iran's boundaries. Subsequent pleas by Hillary Clinton have yet to result in the hikers' release. Various support sites and Facebook groups have been launched to encourage a safe return. 


Amanda Knox, Perugia, Italy, 2009
• While the stiff sentence has been issued to the 22-year-old Seattle native, the court itself is now on trial amongst public opinion. Knox's parents spent over $1 million defending their daughter who allegedly slashed Meredith Kercher's throat in a drug-induced sex rage. Although specific evidence might support the prosecution's theory, there are considerable lingering questions that lean more towards a cover-up than a case closed. To be continued.