Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Back in 1978, ‘Midnight Express’ caused a sensation and a great deal of criticism over its negative portrayal of the Turkish people who, in the film, are all ugly and sadistic. This set of posts reprints articles I wrote at the time for the NME and tells you what has happened since. There’s also some interesting history stuff about what was going on in the background.

The film was loosely based (more later) on the story of Billy Hayes who was busted at Yesilkov International Airport nr Istanbul on 6th Oct 1970 in possession of 2 kilos of hashish.
He was held on remand in Sagmalcilar prison in Istanbul (now  converted into a luxury Four Seasons hotel).
At a court appearance on 19th Dec he was sent for psychiatric assessment to Bakirkoy mental hospital for 17 days.
In April 1971 he was sentenced to 4 years 2 months for possession which meant that, with remission, he would be released on the 17th July 1973.
This sentence was overturned on 6th December that year by a higher court, which called for a retrial and a sentence of life imprisonment. On 10 Sept 1973, Hayes was sentenced to 30 years.
On 16 May 1074 The Turkish government declared an amnesty that reduced prison sentences for drug smugglers by five years which, with 10 years off for good behaviour, meant Hayes would be released on 7th Oct 1985. In May 1975, a further seven years was knocked off his sentence due to a second amnesty ruling.
In July 1975, Hayes was transferred to the prison island of Imrali, located in the south of the Sea of Marmara, from which he made his escape on Octo9ber 2-3rd that year.

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