Detained Americans Fast Facts | CNN


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Detained Americans Fast Facts | CNN
Detained Americans Fast Facts | CNN


Here’s a look at some recent cases of foreign governments detaining US citizens. For information about missing Americans, see Robert Levinson Fast Facts or POW/MIA in Iraq and Afghanistan Fast Facts.


Mark Swidan
November 13, 2012 – Swidan, a businessman from Texas, is arrested on drug related charges by Chinese Police while in his hotel room in Dongguan.

2013 – Swidan is tried and pleads not guilty.

2019 – Convicted of manufacturing and trafficking drugs by the Jiangmen Intermediate People’s Court in southern Guangdong province and given a death sentence with a two-year reprieve.

April 13, 2023 – The Jiangmen Intermediate People’s Court denies Swidan’s appeal and upholds his death penalty.

Kai Li
September 2016 – Kai Li, a naturalized US citizen born in China, is detained while visiting relatives in Shanghai.

July 2018 – He is sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage following a secret trial held in August 2017.


Karan Vafadari
December 2016 – Karan Vafadari’s family announces that Karan and his wife, Afarin Niasari, were detained at Tehran airport in July. Vafadari, an Iranian-American, and Niasari, a green-card holder, ran an art gallery in Tehran.

March 2017 – New charges of “attempting to overthrow the Islamic Republic and recruiting spies through foreign embassies” are brought against Vafadari and Niasari.

January 2018 – Vafadari is sentenced to 27 years in prison. Niasari is sentenced to 16 years.

July 2018 – Vafadari and Niasari are reportedly released from prison on bail while they await their appeals court rulings.


Paul Whelan
December 28, 2018 – Paul Whelan, from Michigan, a retired Marine and corporate security director, is arrested on accusations of spying. His family says he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

January 3, 2019 – His lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, tells CNN Whalen has been formally charged with espionage.

January 22, 2019 – At his pretrial hearing, Whelan is denied bail. Whelan’s attorney Zherebenkov tells CNN that Whelan was found in possession of classified material when he was arrested in Moscow.

June 15, 2020 – Whelan is convicted of espionage and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

August 8, 2021 – State news agency TASS reports that Whelan has been released from solitary confinement in the Mordovian penal colony where he is being held.

Evan Gershkovich
March 30, 2023 – Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, is detained by Russian authorities and accused of spying. The Wall Street Journal rejects the spying allegations.

April 3, 2023 – The Russian state news agency TASS reports Gershkovich has filed an appeal against his arrest.

April 7, 2023 – Gershkovich is formally charged with espionage.

April 10, 2023 – The US State Department officially designates Gershkovich as wrongfully detained by Russia.

April 18, 2023 – The Moscow City Court denies his appeal to change the terms of his detention. Gershkovich will continue to be held in a pre-trial detention center at the notorious Lefortovo prison until May 29.

Saudi Arabia

Walid Fitaihi
November 2017 – Dual US-Saudi citizen Dr. Walid Fitaihi is detained at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh along with other prominent Saudis, according to his lawyer Howard Cooper. Fitaihi is then transferred to prison.

July 2019 – Fitaihi is released on bond.

December 8, 2020 – Fitaihi is sentenced to six years in prison for charges including obtaining US citizenship without permission.

January 14, 2021 – A Saudi appeals court upholds Fitaihi’s conviction but reduces his sentence to 3.2 years and suspends his remaining prison term. Fitaihi still faces a travel ban and frozen assets.


Austin Tice
August 2012 – Tice disappears while reporting near the Syrian capital of Damascus. The Syrian government has never acknowledged that they have Tice in their custody.

September 2012 – A 43-second video emerges online that shows Tice in the captivity of what his family describe as an “unusual group of apparent jihadists.”

Majd Kamalmaz
February 2017 – Kamalmaz is detained at a checkpoint in Damascus. The Syrian government has never acknowledged Kamalmaz is in its custody.


Alan Gross
December 2009 – Alan Gross is jailed while working as a subcontractor on a US Agency for International Development project aimed at spreading democracy. His actions are deemed illegal by Cuban authorities. He is accused of trying to set up illegal internet connections on the island. Gross says he was trying to help connect the Jewish community to the internet and was not a threat to the government.

March 12, 2011 – Gross is found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison for crimes against the Cuban state.

April 11, 2014 – Ends a hunger strike that he launched the previous week in an effort to get the United States and Cuba to resolve his case.

December 17, 2014 – Gross is released as part of a deal with Cuba that paves the way for a major overhaul in US policy toward the island.


16 American NGO Employees
December 2011 – Egyptian authorities carry out 17 raids on the offices of 10 nongovernmental organizations. The Egyptian general prosecutor’s office claims the raids were part of an investigation into allegations the groups had received illegal foreign financing and were operating without a proper license.

February 5, 2012 – Forty-three people face prosecution in an Egyptian criminal court on charges of illegal foreign funding as part of an ongoing crackdown on NGOs. Among the American defendants is Sam LaHood, International Republican Institute country director and the son of US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

February 15, 2012 – The US State Department confirms there are 16 Americans being held, not 19 as the Egyptian government announced.

February 20, 2012 – South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and Arizona Senator John McCain meet with top Egyptian military and political leaders in Cairo.

March 1, 2012 – Some of the 43 detainees including American, Norwegian, German, Serbian and Palestinian activists leave Cairo after each post two-million Egyptian pounds bail.

April 20, 2012 – CNN is told Egyptian officials have filed global arrest notices with Interpol for some of the Americans involved in the NGO trial.

June 4, 2013 – An Egyptian court sentences the NGO workers: 27 workers in absentia to five-year sentences, 11 to one-year suspended jail sentences, and five others to two-year sentences that were not suspended, according to state-run newspaper Al Ahram. Only one American has remained in Egypt to fight the charges, but he also left after the court announced his conviction.


UC-Berkeley Grads
July 31, 2009 – Three graduates from the University of California at Berkeley, Sarah Shourd of Oakland, California, Shane Bauer, of Emeryville, California, and Joshua Fattal, of Cottage Grove, Oregon, are detained in Iran after hiking along the unmarked Iran-Iraq border in northern Iraq’s Kurdish region.

August 11, 2009 – Iran sends formal notification to the Swiss ambassador that the three American hikers have been detained. Switzerland represents the United States diplomatic interests in Iran since the United States and Iran do not have diplomatic relations.

October 2009 – The Iranian government allows a Swiss diplomat to visit the hikers at Evin Prison.

November 9, 2009 – Iran charges the three with espionage.

March 9, 2010 – The families of the three detained hikers speak by phone to the hikers for the first time since they were jailed.

May 20, 2010 – The detainees’ mothers are allowed to visit their children.

May 21, 2010 – The mothers are allowed a second visit, and the detained hikers speak publicly for the first time at a government-controlled news conference.

August 5, 2010 – Reports surface that Shourd is being denied medical treatment.

September 14, 2010 – Shourd is released on humanitarian grounds on $500,000 bail.

September 19, 2010 – Shourd speaks publicly to the press in New York.

November 27, 2010 – Two days after Thanksgiving, Fattal and Bauer are allowed to call home for the second time. Each call lasts about five minutes.

February 6, 2011 – Fattal and Bauer’s trial begins. Shourd has not responded to a court summons to return to stand trial.

May 4, 2011 – Shourd announces she will not return to Tehran to face espionage charges.

August 20, 2011 – Fattal and Bauer each receive five years for spying and three years for illegal entry, according to state-run TV. They have 20 days to appeal.

September 14, 2011 – A Western diplomat tells CNN an Omani official is en route to Tehran to help negotiate the release of Fattal and Bauer. Oman helped secure the release of Shourd in 2010.

September 21, 2011 – Fattal and Bauer are released from prison on bail of $500,000 each and their sentences are commuted. On September 25, they arrive back in the United States.

Saeed Abedini
September 26, 2012 – According to the American Center for Law and Justice, Saeed Abedini, an American Christian pastor who was born in Iran and lives in Idaho, is detained in Iran. The group says that Abedini’s charges stem from his conversion to Christianity from Islam 13 years ago and his activities with home churches in Iran.

January 2013 – Abedini is sentenced to eight years in prison, on charges of attempting to undermine the Iranian government.

January 16, 2016 – Iran releases four US prisoners including Abedini, Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, and Jason Rezaian, in exchange for clemency of seven Iranians imprisoned in the United States for sanctions violations.

Amir Mirzaei Hekmati
August 2011 – Amir Mirzaei Hekmati travels to Iran to visit relatives and gets detained by authorities, according to his family. His arrest isn’t made public for months.

December 17, 2011 – Iran’s Intelligence Ministry claims to have arrested an Iranian-American working as a CIA agent, according to state-run Press TV.

December 18, 2011 – Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency broadcasts a video in which a young man says his name is Hekmati, and that he joined the US Marine Corps and worked with Iraqi officers.

December 19, 2011 – The US State Department confirms the identity of the man detained in Iran and calls for his immediate release.

December 20, 2011 – Hekmati’s family says that he was arrested in August while visiting relatives in Iran. The family asserts that they remained quiet about the arrest at the urging of Iranian officials who promised his release.

December 27, 2011 – Hekmati’s trial begins in Iran. Prosecutors accuse Hekmati of entering Iran with the intention of infiltrating the country’s intelligence system in order to accuse Iran of involvement in terrorist activities, according to the Fars news agency.

January 9, 2012 – An Iranian news agency reports that Hekmati is convicted of “working for an enemy country,” as well as membership in the CIA and “efforts to accuse Iran of involvement in terrorism.” He is sentenced to death.

March 5, 2012 – An Iranian court dismisses a lower court’s death sentence for Hekmati and orders a retrial. He remains in prison.

September 2013 – In a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry, Hekmati says that his confession was obtained under duress.

April 11, 2014 – Hekmati’s sister tells CNN that Hekmati has been convicted in Iran by a secret court of “practical collaboration with the US government” and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

January 16, 2016 – Iran releases four US prisoners including Hekmati, Abedini, and Jason Rezaian, in exchange for clemency of seven Iranians indicted or imprisoned in the United States for sanctions violations.

Jason Rezaian
July 24, 2014 – The Washington Post reports that its Tehran correspondent and Bureau Chief Jason Rezaian, his wife Yeganeh Salehi and two freelance journalists were detained on July 22, 2014. An Iranian official confirmed to CNN that the group is being held by authorities.

July 29, 2014 – Iran releases one of three people detained alongside Rezaian, a source close to the family of the released detainee tells CNN. The released detainee is the husband of an Iranian-American photojournalist who remains in custody with Rezaian and his wife, according to the source.

August 20, 2014 – The Washington Post reports the photojournalist detained with Rezaian in July has been released. At her family’s request, the Post declines to publish her name.

October 6, 2014 – According to the Washington Post, Rezaian’s wife, Yeganeh Salehi, has been released on bail.

December 6, 2014 – During a 10-hour court session in Tehran, Rezaian is officially charged with unspecified crimes, according to the newspaper.

April 20, 2015 – According the Washington Post, Rezaian is being charged with espionage and other serious crimes including “collaborating with a hostile government” and “propaganda against the establishment.”

October 11, 2015 – Iran’s state media reports that Rezaian has been found guilty, but no details are provided about his conviction or his sentence. His trial reportedly took place between May and August.

November 22, 2015 – An Iranian court sentences Rezaian to prison. The length of the sentence is not specified.

January 16, 2016 – Iran releases four US prisoners including Rezaian, Hekmati, and Abedini, in exchange for the clemency of seven Iranians indicted or imprisoned in the United States for sanctions violations.

May 1, 2018 – Joins CNN as a global affairs analyst.

Reza “Robin” Shahini
July 11, 2016 – San Diego resident Reza “Robin” Shahini is arrested while visiting family in Gorgan, Iran. Shahini is a dual US-Iranian citizen.

October 2016 – Shahini is sentenced to 18 years in prison.

February 15, 2017 – Goes on a hunger strike to protest his sentence.

April 3, 2017 – The Center for Human Rights in Iran says Shahini has been released on bail while he awaits the ruling of the appeals court.

July 2018 – A civil lawsuit filed against the Iranian government on Shahini’s behalf indicates that Shahini has returned to the United States.

Xiyue Wang
July 16, 2017 – The semi-official news agency Fars News, citing a video statement from Iranian judicial spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejheie, reports that a US citizen has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of spying. Princeton University identifies the man as Chinese-born Xiyue Wang, an American citizen and graduate student in history. According to a university statement, Wang was arrested in Iran last summer while doing scholarly research in connection with his Ph.D. dissertation.

December 7, 2019 – The White House announces that Wang has been released and is returning to the United States. Iran released Wang in a prisoner swap, in coordination with the United States freeing an Iranian scientist named Massoud Soleimani.

Michael White
January 8, 2019 – Michael White’s mother, Joanne White, tells CNN she reported him missing when he failed to return to work in California in July, after traveling to Iran to visit his girlfriend.

January 9, 2019 – Bahram Ghasemi, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, says White “was arrested in the city of Mashhad a while ago, and within a few days after his arrest the US government was informed of the arrest through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran.” Ghasemi denies allegations that White, a US Navy veteran, has been mistreated in prison.

March 2019 – White is handed a 13-year prison sentence on charges of insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and for publicly posting private images, according to his attorney Mark Zaid.

March 19, 2020 – White is released into the custody of the Swiss Embassy on medical furlough. One condition of his release is that he must stay in Iran.

June 4, 2020 – White is released, according to White’s mother and a person familiar with the negotiations.

Baquer and Siamak Namazi
October 2015 – Siamak Namazi, a Dubai-based businessman with dual US and Iranian citizenship, is detained while visiting relatives in Tehran.

February 2016 – Baquer Namazi, a former UNICEF official and father of Siamak Namazi, is detained, his wife Effie Namazi says on Facebook. He is an Iranian-American.

October 2016 – The men are sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined $4.8 million, according to Iran’s official news channel IRINN. Iran officials say five people were convicted and sentenced for “cooperating with Iran’s enemies,” a government euphemism that usually implies cooperating with the United States.

January 28, 2018 – Baquer Namazi is granted a four-day leave by the Iranian government, after being discharged from an Iranian hospital. Namazi’s family say the 81-year-old was rushed to the hospital on January 15 after a severe drop in his blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat and serious depletion of energy. This was the fourth time Namazi had been transferred to a hospital in the last year. In September, he underwent emergency heart surgery to install a pacemaker.

February 2018 – Baquer Namazi is released on temporary medical furlough.

February 2020 – Iran’s Revolutionary Court commutes Baquer Namazi’s sentence to time served and the travel ban on him is lifted.

May 2020 – According to the family, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) places a new travel ban on Baquer Namazi, preventing him from leaving the country.

October 26, 2021 – Baquer Namazi undergoes surgery to clear a “life-threatening blockage in one of the main arteries to his brain, which was discovered late last month,” his lawyer says in a statement.

October 1, 2022 – Baquer Namazi is released from detention and is permitted to leave Iran “to seek medical treatment abroad,” according to a statement from UN Secretary General spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric.

March 9, 2023 – Siamak Namazi makes a plea to President Joe Biden to put the “liberty of innocent Americans above politics” and ramp up efforts to secure his release, in an interview with CNN from inside Iran’s Evin prison.

September 18, 2023 – Siamak Namazi is freed, along with four other Americans as part of a wider deal that includes the United States unfreezing $6 billion in Iranian funds.

North Korea

Kenneth Bae
December 11, 2012 – US officials confirm that American citizen Kenneth Bae has been detained in North Korea for over a month.

April 30, 2013 – North Korea’s Supreme Court sentences Bae to 15 years of hard labor for “hostile acts” against the country.

October 11, 2013 – Bae meets with his mother in North Korea.

January 20, 2014 – A statement is released in which Bae says that he had committed a “serious crime” against North Korea. Any statement made by Bae in captivity is sanctioned by the North Korean government. The country has a long history of forcing false confessions.

February 7, 2014 – The State Department announces that Bae has been moved from a hospital to a labor camp.

November 8, 2014 – The State Department announces that Bae and Matthew Miller have been released and are on their way home.

Jeffrey Fowle
June 6, 2014 – North Korea announces it has detained US citizen Jeffrey Edward Fowle, who entered the country as a tourist in April. Fowle was part of a tour group and was detained in mid-May after leaving a bible in a restaurant.

June 30, 2014 – North Korea says that it plans to prosecute Fowle and another detained American tourist, Matthew Miller, accusing them of “perpetrating hostile acts.”

October 21, 2014 – A senior State Department official tells CNN that Fowle has been released and is on his way home.

Aijalon Gomes
January 25, 2010 – Aijalon Mahli Gomes, of Boston, is detained in North Korea after crossing into the country illegally from China.

April 7, 2010 – He is sentenced to eight years of hard labor and ordered to pay a fine of 70 million North Korean won or approximately $600,000.

July 10, 2010 – Gomes is hospitalized after attempting to commit suicide.

August 25-27, 2010 – Former US President Jimmy Carter arrives in North Korea, with hopes of negotiating for Gomes’ release.

August 27, 2010 – Carter and Gomes leave Pyongyang after Gomes is granted amnesty for humanitarian purposes.

Kim Dong Chul
October 2015 – Kim Dong Chul, a naturalized American citizen, is taken into custody after allegedly meeting a source to obtain a USB stick and camera used to gather military secrets. In January 2016, Kim is given permission to speak with CNN by North Korean officials and asks that the United States or South Korea rescue him.

March 25, 2016 – A North Korean official tells CNN that Kim has confessed to espionage charges.

April 29, 2016 – A North Korean official tells CNN that Kim has been sentenced to 10 years of hard labor for subversion and espionage.

May 9, 2018 – Trump announces that Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang Duk, also known as Tony Kim, appear to be in good health and are returning to the United States with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

May 10, 2018 – The three freed American detainees arrive at Joint Base Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

Kim Hak-song
May 7, 2017 – The state-run Korean Central News Agency reports that US citizen Kim Hak-song was detained in North Korea on May 6 on suspicion of “hostile acts” against the regime. The regime describes Kim as “a man who was doing business in relation to the operation of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.”

May 9, 2018 – Trump announces that Kim Hak-song, Kim Dong Chul and Kim Sang Duk, also known as Tony Kim, appear to be in good health and are returning to the United States with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

May 10, 2018 – The three freed American detainees arrive at Joint Base Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

Kim Sang Duk
April 22, 2017 – US citizen Kim Sang Duk, also known as Tony Kim, is detained by authorities at Pyongyang International Airport for unknown reasons. Kim taught for several weeks at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.

May 3, 2017 – State-run Korean Central News Agency reports that Kim is accused of attempting to overthrow the government.

May 9, 2018 – Trump announces that Tony Kim, Kim Hak-song and Kim Dong Chul appear to be in good health and are returning to the United States with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

May 10, 2018 – The three freed American detainees arrive at Joint Base Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

Euna Lee and Laura Ling
March 2009 – Journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling are arrested while reporting from the border between North Korea and China for California-based Current Media.

June 4, 2009 – They are sentenced to 12 years in prison on charges of entering the country illegally to conduct a smear campaign.

August 4, 2009 – Former US President Bill Clinton travels to Pyongyang on a private humanitarian mission to help secure their release.

August 5, 2009 – Lee and Ling are pardoned and released.

Matthew Miller
April 25, 2014 – North Korea’s news agency reports that Matthew Todd Miller was taken into custody on April 10. According to KCNA, Miller entered North Korea seeking asylum and tour up his tourist visa.

June 30, 2014 – North Korea says that it plans to prosecute Miller and another detained American tourist, Jeffrey Fowle, accusing them of “perpetrating hostile acts.”

September 14, 2014 – According to state-run media, Miller is convicted of committing “acts hostile” to North Korea and sentenced to six years of hard labor.

November 8, 2014 – The State Department announces Miller and Kenneth Bae have been released and are on their way home.

Merrill Newman
October 26, 2013 – Merrill Newman of Palo Alto, California, is detained in North Korea, according to his family. Just minutes before his plane is to depart, Newman is removed from the flight by North Korean authorities, his family says.

November 22, 2013 – The US State Department says North Korea has confirmed to Swedish diplomats that it is holding an American citizen. The State Department has declined to confirm the identity of the citizen, citing privacy issues, but the family of Newman says the Korean War veteran and retired financial consultant has been detained since October.

November 30, 2013 – KCNA reports Newman issued an apology to the people of North Korea, “After I killed so many civilians and (North Korean) soldiers and destroyed strategic objects in the DPRK during the Korean War, I committed indelible offensive acts against the DPRK government and Korean people.” His statement ends: “If I go back to (the) USA, I will tell the true features of the DPRK and the life the Korean people are leading.”

December 7, 2013 – Newman returns to the United States, arriving at San Francisco International Airport. North Korea’s state news agency reports Newman was released for “humanitarian” reasons.

Eddie Yong Su Jun
April 14, 2011 – The KCNA reports that US citizen Eddie Yong Su Jun was arrested in November 2010 and has been under investigation for committing a crime against North Korea. No details are provided on the alleged crime.

May 27, 2011 – Following a visit from the US delegation which includes the special envoy for North Korean human rights, Robert King, and the Deputy Assistant Administrator of the US Agency for International Development, Jon Brause, to North Korea, Yong Su Jun is released.

Otto Frederick Warmbier
January 2, 2016 – Otto Frederick Warmbier, a University of Virginia college student, is detained in North Korea after being accused of a “hostile act” against the government.

February 29, 2016 – The North Korean government releases a video of Warmbier apologizing for committing, in his own words, “the crime of taking down a political slogan from the staff holding area of the Yanggakdo International Hotel.” It is not known if Warmbier was forced to speak.

March 16, 2016 – Warmbier is sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for crimes against the state, a North Korean official tells CNN.

June 13, 2017 – Warmbier is transported back to the United States via medevac flight to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. There, doctors say that he has suffered severe brain damage. Doctors say Warmbier shows no current signs of botulism, which North Korean officials claim he contracted after his trial.

June 19, 2017 – Warmbier’s family issues a statement that he has died.

April 26, 2018 – Warmbier’s parents file a wrongful death lawsuit against the North Korean government charging that the country’s regime tortured and killed their son, according to lawyers for the family.

December 24, 2018 – A federal judge in Washington awards Warmbier’s parents more than half a billion dollars in the wrongful death suit against the North Korean government. North Korea did not respond to the lawsuit – the opinion was rendered as a so-called “default judgment” – and the country has no free assets in the US for which the family could make a claim.


Trevor Reed
2019 – While visiting a longtime girlfriend, Trevor Reed is taken into custody after a night of heavy drinking according to state-run news agency TASS and Reed’s family. Police tell state-run news agency RIA-Novosti that Reed was involved in an altercation with two women and a police unit that arrived at the scene following complaints of a disturbance. Police allege Reed resisted arrest, attacked the driver, hit another policeman, caused the car to swerve by grabbing the wheel and created a hazardous situation on the road, RIA stated.

July 30, 2020 – Reed is sentenced to nine years in prison for endangering “life and health” of Russian police officers.

April 1, 2021 – The parents of Reed reveal that their son served as a Marine presidential guard under the Obama administration – a fact they believe led Russia to target him.

April 27, 2022 – Reed is released in a prisoner swap.

June 14, 2022 – Reed tells CNN that he has filed a petition with the United Nations (UN), declaring that Russia violated international law with his detention and poor treatment.

Brittney Griner
February 17, 2022 – Two-time Olympic basketball gold medalist and WBNA star Brittney Griner is taken into custody following a customs screening at Sheremetyevo Airport. Russian authorities said Griner had cannabis oil in her luggage and accused her of smuggling significant amounts of a narcotic substance, an offense the Russian government says is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

July 7, 2022 – Griner pleads guilty to drug charges in a Russian court.

August 4, 2022 – Griner is found guilty of drug smuggling with criminal intent and sentenced by a Russian court to 9 years of jail time with a fine of one million rubles (roughly $16,400).

October 25, 2022 – At an appeal hearing, a Russian judge leaves Griner’s verdict in place, upholding her conviction on drug smuggling charges and reducing only slightly her nine-year prison sentence.

November 9, 2022 – Griner’s attorney tells CNN she is being moved to a Russian penal colony where she is due to serve the remainder of her sentence.

December 8, 2022 – US President Biden announces that Griner has been released from Russian detention and is on her way home.


Serkan Golge
July 2016 – While on vacation in Turkey, Serkan Golge is arrested and accused of having links to the Gulenist movement. Golge is a 37-year-old NASA physicist who holds dual Turkish-US citizenship.

February 8, 2018 – Golge is sentenced to 7.5 years in prison.

September 2018 – A Turkish court reduces Golge’s prison sentence to five years.

May 29, 2019 – The State Department announces that Golge has been released.

Andrew Brunson
October 2016 – Andrew Brunson, a North Carolina native, is arrested in Izmir on Turkey’s Aegean coast, where he is pastor at the Izmir Resurrection Church. Brunson, an evangelical Presbyterian pastor, is later charged with plotting to overthrow the Turkish government, disrupting the constitutional order and espionage.

March 2018 – A formal indictment charges Brunson with espionage and having links to terrorist organizations.

October 12, 2018 – Brunson is sentenced to three years and one month in prison but is released based on time served.


Timothy Hallett Tracy
April 24, 2013 – Timothy Hallett Tracy, of Los Angeles, is arrested at the Caracas airport, according to Reporters Without Borders. Tracy traveled to Venezuela to make a documentary about the political division gripping the country.

April 25, 2013 – In a televised address, newly elected President Nicolas Maduro says he ordered the arrest of Tracy for “financing violent groups.”

April 27, 2013 – Tracy is formally charged with conspiracy, association for criminal purposes and use of a false document.

June 5, 2013 – Tracy is released from prison and expelled from Venezuela.

Joshua Holt
May 26, 2018 – Joshua Holt and his Venezuelan wife, Thamara Holt, are released by Venezuela. The two had been imprisoned there since 2016. The American traveled to Venezuela to marry Thamara in 2016, and shortly afterward was accused by the Venezuelan government of stockpiling weapons and attempting to destabilize the government. He was held for almost two years with no trial.

“Citgo 6”

November 2017 – After arriving in Caracas, Venezuela, for an impromptu business meeting, Tomeu Vadell and five other Citgo executives – Gustavo Cardenas, Jorge Toledo, Alirio Zambrano, Jose Luis Zambrano and Jose Angel Pereira – are arrested and detained on embezzlement and corruption charges. Citgo is the US subsidiary of the Venezuelan oil and natural gas company PDVSA. Five of the six men are US citizens; one is a US legal permanent resident.

December 2019 – The “Citgo 6” are transferred from the detention facility, where they have been held without trial for more than two years, to house arrest.

February 5, 2020 – They are moved from house arrest into prison, hours after Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido met with US President Donald Trump

July 30, 2020 – Two of the men – Cárdenas and Toledo – are released on house arrest after a humanitarian visit to Caracas by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and a team of non-government negotiators.

November 27, 2020 – The six oil executives are found guilty and are given sentences between 8 to 13 years in prison.

April 30, 2021 – The men are released from prison to house arrest.

October 16, 2021 – The “Citgo 6,” all under house arrest, are picked up by the country’s intelligence service SEBIN, just hours after the extradition of Alex Saab, a Colombian financier close to Maduro.

March 8, 2022 – Cardenas is one of two detainees released from prison. The other, Jorge Alberto Fernandez, a Cuban-US dual citizen detained in Venezuela since February 2021, was accused of terrorism for carrying a small domestic drone. The releases take place after a quiet trip to Caracas by a US government delegation.

October 1, 2022 – US President Biden announces the release and return of Toledo, Vadell, Alirio Zambrano, Jose Luis Zambrano, and Pereira.

Matthew Heath

September 2020 – Is arrested and charged with terrorism in Venezuela.

June 20, 2022 – Family of Heath state that he has attempted suicide. “We are aware of reports that a US citizen was hospitalized in Venezuela,” a State Department spokesperson says. “Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment.”

October 1, 2022 – US President Biden announces the release and return of Heath.

Airan Berry and Luke Denman

May 4, 2020 – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says two American “mercenaries” have been apprehended after a failed coup attempt to capture and remove him. Madura identifies the captured Americans as Luke Denman, 34, and Airan Berry, 41. On state television, Maduro brandishes what he claims are the US passports and driver’s licenses of the two men, along with what he says are their ID cards for Silvercorp, a Florida-based security services company.

May 5, 2020 – Denman appears on Venezuelan state TV. He is shown looking directly at the camera recounting his role in “helping Venezuelans take back control of their country.”

August 7, 2020 – Prosecutors announce that Berry and Denman have been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

December 20, 2023 – It is announced that the US has reached an agreement to secure the release of 10 Americans, including Berry and Denman, held in Venezuela.

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