Twenty-five years ago this week, Spain and the United States put an end to a bitter 20-month diplomatic embroilment, partly ignited by a media storm, that brewed over vociferous demands for the release of an American citizen who had been jailed in Barcelona for cocaine trafficking.
For the next 20 months, Owen's family and friends rallied Washington, successfully seeking the support of about a dozen lawmakers from both parties on Capitol Hill so that they could pressure the then-Socialist government of Felipe González to release the young American.
(Owen had once served as an intern to Vice President George Bush.) In April 1988, hundreds of people showed up for a rally outside the Spanish Embassy in Washington demanding Owen's release from the Modelo prison in Barcelona.
His parents hit the media circuit, giving interviews on NBC's Today Show and CNN's Larry King Live.
The New York Times and Rolling Stone also published long stories about Owen's plight.
And today there are many indications that a good number of inmates from both Spain and the United States who are serving time abroad do not know or are not adequately informed about its existence, as government officials on both sides of the Atlantic warn.
The most recent figures by the US Justice Department show that nearly two dozen Spaniards were transferred from the federal prison system in the United States to their home country between 20 under the convention.During that five-year period, 48 Spaniards incarcerated in the US federal prison system had applied for transfers but only 27 applications were approved and 20 actually sent home.That figure doesn't include Spaniards who were being held in state prisons and county and municipal jails throughout the United States.Just one month before Owen's trial was to begin, then-US Attorney General Edwin Meese flew to Madrid with a sworn statement in hand by the man who hired Owen, Jorge Barahona, confessing before a US federal court that it was he who had switched the cocaine-filled suitcase in Santiago, Chile - where they both traveled to go over details of the job - before the young photojournalist boarded his plane to Barcelona.Meese, who came to Spain to sign a supplementary extradition treaty, handed the copy of Barahona's deposition to then-Justice Minister Fernando Ledesma.The Spanish press criticized what they believed was the Reagan administration's interference in the local judicial system. But amid mounting pressure and bad publicity in the United States about the flaws in his court trial and attacks on the entire Spanish legal system, Owen arrived in New York on November 7, 1988 - just days after Felipe González's Cabinet had approved his return.