Tourists Beware

The official-sounding letter from something called the Justice Incentive Program in Dallas details the plight of Cynthia Cox (above), serving a four-year sentence in Austria for heroin smuggling. Declaring a “Foreign Travel Alert Regarding the Republic of Austria,” the letter describes an unjust arrest and trial, and an “evil and sadistic” prison. It warns about the more than 3,000 Americans now in foreign jails and encourages sticking to domestic travel.

The letter, one of a thousand sent out by the program, looks like the work of a government agency or a nonprofit organization. But the Justice Incentive Program is actually a fancy name concocted by the fiancé, parents and friends of Cynthia Cox and some of her cellmates. Initial efforts to help Cox through the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the State Department and the Justice Department got them nowhere. So the Justice Incentive Program was born.

Cox’s fiancé, Fred Neatrour, accuses the Austrian police of framing her. The Dallas engineer claims Cox is forced to stay in a filthy prison with atrocious food and almost nonexistent medical care.

“Under their system you seem to be guilty until you are proven innocent,” says Neatrour. “She was denied an attorney until the day before the trial, and he helped convict her.”

Neatrour would like Cox released, but the goal for now is to have her transferred to an American prison to serve her sentence. Neatrour believes if his group gets enough attention, the State Department will expedite the case.

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