New Season of National Geographic Channel's Critically Acclaimed Series Locked Up Abroad Launches With the Firsthand Retelling of One of the Greatest Escape Stories Ever

Jun 16, 2010, 14:00 ET from National Geographic Channel

In Intimate Detail, Billy Hayes Reveals Real-Life Experience Behind the Academy Award-Winning 1978 Film "Midnight Express"

"[The movie 'Midnight Express'] was based upon the book I had written.  In the book I could only say certain things for legal reasons.  The movie itself changed even the book to a point where not all of it is valid and true to my story.  Now I have a chance to tell my story." Billy Hayes

Locked Up Abroad: The Real Midnight Express Premieres Wednesday, June 30, 2010, at 10 PM ET/PT

WASHINGTON, June 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --  Being held captive far from home is every traveler's worst nightmare.  What would you do if you were thrown into a notoriously harsh prison thousands of miles from home?  Or taken hostage by rebel groups in remote foreign jungles?  What if one decision, made at one vulnerable moment, stole your freedom in the worst possible way?  And what if another decision — to daringly escape from prison hell — led to a life reinvented?

Starting Wednesday, June 30, at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT, National Geographic Channel (NGC) premieres the fourth season of the critically acclaimed series Locked Up Abroad (named a top 10 TV program of 2009 by the New York Times), taking viewers inside firsthand accounts of capture, imprisonment and pure terror far from home.  Presented from the subject's point of view, hear every critical detail and watch each heart-pounding moment of the harrowing journey unfold:  the panic, sweat, pain, regret, tears and complete desperation.  Combining revealing personal interviews with dramatic re-enactments, each one-hour episode focuses on one extraordinary situation, recounting the brutality, the bravery and, in some cases, the bad decisions that put the traveler in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The premiere episode, Locked Up Abroad: The Real Midnight Express, reveals the story of 23-year-old college student Billy Hayes ― his imprisonment for drug smuggling and his escape from a prison in Istanbul, Turkey ― much of which was portrayed in the Oscar-winning 1978 film "Midnight Express."  But for legal reasons, neither the film nor the book, authored by Hayes, was completely accurate.  Now, Billy himself provides the full, intimate details of being sent to the infamous Turkish Sagmalcilar prison and eventually escaping.  

After serving five years and believing he is about to be set free, he is told instead that his sentence has been increased to life in prison.  Devastated, he is determined to escape ― and risk death to do it.  His journey to freedom begins after being transferred to another prison located on an island, stealing a fisherman's dinghy and heaving a skiff 17 miles through the rolling waves to the mainland.  However, once he reaches the shore, Billy runs into a military checkpoint, where he is immediately arrested.  His captors turn out to be Greek, historical enemies of those who had previously incarcerated him, and Billy is granted his long-awaited freedom.

Additional Episode Highlights Include:

  • Tom Lynch is captured by the Iraqi military in 1990 at the outset of the first Gulf War and handed over to Saddam's infamous secret police force ― notorious for torture and brutality.  
  • Jackie Nichols is struggling to follow the severe rules in a Japanese prison such as prohibitions on interacting with other prisoners and only being able to sit cross-legged or on her knees all day long and nearly loses her mind.
  • Tim Schrader is caught with more than a hundred times the amount of heroin needed to secure a death sentence.  In a notorious Thai prison, Tim becomes a drug addict and then discovers he is HIV-positive.
  • Michael Morey smuggles cocaine from Ecuador to Europe to earn extra money for his expected baby.  But he is busted, sentenced to nine years in prison and learns his girlfriend has lost the baby and is leaving him.  

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SOURCE National Geographic Channel