The Truth Behind 'Midnight Express'

It was one of the travel nightmares of the 1970s, along with being hijacked to Cuba or being stuck behind the Iron Curtain – being thrown into a Turkish prison and left to rot. The 1978 movie “Midnight Express,” based on a book by Billy Hayes, and adapted into a screenplay by Oliver Stone, shows Hayes’ arrest for trafficking in hashish, his beatings and the squalid prison conditions. Though originally sentenced to a relatively mild four years, just two months before his release date, a superior court overturned the decision and sentenced him to 30 years. Other prisoners try to escape (which gives the book and movie their name), while Hayes remains, going slowly insane until his girlfriend visits him and urges him to escape as well. After an attempt to bribe the guard fails, he attacks the guard, who is accidentally killed. Hayes is then able to flee prison. According to Robert Dillon, who was deputy chief of mission at the embassy, the real story was a bit less lurid. He was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy beginning in 1990.


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