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For Kathy and Joann, a Turkish Court Decrees a Lifetime Behind Bars

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At first the girls were confident, even cavalier, pressing close to the barred window of their cell to smile for a guard who wanted to take their picture. Then came the shock of the verdict: the young tourists from America, Kathy Zenz and JoAnn McDaniel, were found guilty last December of smuggling hashish into Turkey. Their penalty: death, later commuted to life imprisonment.

Kathy and JoAnn are among the 1,000 or more Americans—largely youthful, white and middle class—currently being held in jails overseas on various drug charges. There are 15 others in Turkey alone. Most are serving relatively short terms of 5 or 10 years, but Kathy and JoAnn had the misfortune to be arrested shortly after the United States had brought pressure to bear on the Turkish government to crack down on that country’s opium trade, one of its principal cash crops. The Turkish courts were in no mood to be lenient toward Americans.

Kathy and JoAnn were seized at the Syrian border as they tried to cross into Turkey in two small vans. At the wheel of a third was another American, Robert Hubbard, 23, whom the girls had met a few weeks earlier in Germany. Cutting into the upholstery, border police found 265 pounds of hashish, which Hubbard later insisted he had placed there without the girls’ knowledge. The court, unmoved, sent all three to a small prison in the ancient city of Antioch. There, in a 15-by-20-foot cell they shared with as many as 30 other women, Kathy and JoAnn have passed the time practicing yoga, reading and rereading Kurt Vonnegut novels and listening to music from home on a tape recorder. According to Turkish custom they prepared their own food, making up an extra portion for Hubbard, who was confined in another wing of the jail. The girls have spent much of their time writing to friends and relatives at home, haunted by the fear that they will be forgotten.

Last month they were transferred to a larger prison at Adana, which houses convicts with long sentences. Although they have appealed their case and their parents in the U.S. are mounting a petition drive, the girls’ best hope is that they may be included in a general amnesty, expected this spring in connection with the Turkish Republic’s 50th anniversary. But even that, if it comes, will probably mean only a reduction in sentence—perhaps to 10 or 15 years. Under Turkish law, there is no such thing as parole.

A quiet world Kathy longed to leave

The serenity of the small farming community of Lancaster, Wise, where Kathy Zenz grew up must seem achingly distant to her now. Ironically, it was the quiet that set her out on the road that eventually led to Turkey.

The youngest of three children in a strict, closely knit family, she attended Catholic grade school and public high school, and had traveled very little until 1964 when she left for nursing school. After graduation she rarely returned. She worked briefly in St. Paul, Chicago and Denver before settling in San Francisco. Her job as a private psychiatric nurse was mainly a means of financing her passion for travel. She lived on Nob Hill, cooked for friends, took art courses and craved music—mostly rock and blues. When she left for Europe last fall friends thought she was on a skiing trip.

“What Kathy really feared,” says a friend, “was returning to Lancaster to become the town’s spinster nurse.” Mrs. Zenz recalls she once encouraged Kathy to be a teacher. “None of this would have happened if she had,” she says wistfully. “But Kathy wanted to see more of the world than a little bitty schoolhouse.” The Zenzes first received word of their daughter’s ordeal from Kathy herself in a letter written shortly after her arrest. “She told us not to worry,” her mother remembers, “that she was an innocent victim of circumstance. She said that over and over. She said we would have to be brave.” Over the months there would be much to be brave about, but Kathy’s letters, sent regularly, remained hopeful. “She never writes the bad things to us,” her mother says, “even if I ask about them.” But she has asked her parents not to visit.

For eight months the Zenzes kept their daughter’s plight a secret from everyone except her best friend and the family priest and doctor. Now friends of the family have begun circulating a petition to the president of Turkey for Kathy’s release, and most of the citizens of Lancaster have signed.

Inside the tidy Zenz farmhouse, built 86 years ago by Kathy’s great-grandfather, the family sits among religious artifacts and reads and rereads the volume of the encyclopedia on Turkey—and Kathy’s frequent letters.

“It’s against the American story-telling grain,” she recently wrote her folks, “to have someone in a situation he can’t get out of. This isn’t a story—it’s real life. How will I get out of this one?”

JoAnn wasn’t quite ready to come home

“Before reading this,” the letter began, “I would like you both to sit down….” Like the Zenz family, Billie and Harold McDaniel of Coos Bay, Ore. learned the news in a letter from their daughter JoAnn and, in the months that have followed, the nightmare she described has etched itself onto their faces. “It has been a terrible, terrible shock,” says McDaniel.

JoAnn is the secondborn of four children, a girl who filled her childhood scrapbook full of snapshots that are the classic cliches of small-town growing up—as a toddler with a Teddy bear, a tomboy with a plaster cast on her arm, a Campfire girl, a high school booster with pom-poms. “JoAnn had tremendous enthusiasm,” says a friend. “She never sat around thinking about things—she just went ahead and did them.” The scrapbook follows her, attractive in late teens, to a small college and then to two years at the University of Oregon, where she studied parks and recreation but fell 16 hours short of a degree. Here, however, the scrapbook trails off. JoAnn worked in Coos Bay for a year, earning enough money for a trip to Europe. “We never blamed her for that,” her mother says. “I would have liked to go when I was young—and she knew when she was ready to come home we would send a ticket.” JoAnn settled in Munich and learned to work with leather, making items which were sold in boutiques. Later she moved to Spain, and with two friends bought a run-down 52-foot sloop, using money her parents had sent her. The three planned to renovate the craft and use it to transport light cargo—tourist souvenirs, mostly. In 1972 JoAnn returned to Coos Bay for a six-week visit with her parents. “I’m not quite ready to come back for good,” she told them. “There’s so much to see and do.” It was the last time they saw her.

JoAnn flew back to Europe to discover that the boat had been vandalized and the project scrapped. She went to Munich, where she met Bobby Hubbard and, later, Kathy Zenz. Like the Zenz family, the McDaniels, who now live in nearby Salem, Ore., have written extensively to their daughter, but have refrained from visiting Turkey. They send money to JoAnn through the American consul in Turkey, which she uses to buy food. Lately, to keep occupied, her parents say, she has written to the University of Oregon, requesting correspondence courses. The school has obliged with an offer: If JoAnn will complete those missing 16 hours of study the university will award her the degree she failed to get nine years ago.