On Thursday, Donald Trump announced that he had been indicted by federal special prosecutor Jack Smith on charges stemming from his retention of documents he took from the White House after his single presidential term. According to Trump and media news reports, Trump will be required to attend an arraignment next Tuesday in Miami.

The Smith indictment has been in the works for nearly a year after FBI agents searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate for documents after the National Archives and Records Administration alerted the Department of Justice that it believed the disgraced ex-president had failed to return numerous top secret and military documents as required by law.

The official charges Trump will face have not been publicly disclosed yet, but they are the second active criminal case that the former “Apprentice” host will be dealing with. In April, he was indicted in a New York state court for falsifying business records to cover up payments to pornographic actress Stormy Daniels. Last December, the ex-president’s umbrella corporation was found guilty of criminal tax fraud, a verdict he has appealed.

Ahead of Tuesday’s formal reading of the charges, Trump and his allies have rushed to frame the case first in their own terms, repeatedly claiming holding him accountable for breaking laws somehow undermines justice.

While Trump has offered an ever-shifting variety of flimsy legal defenses in court for his actions, the lodestar in his public relations strategy has been to assert that law enforcement actions against former chief executive supposedly only happen in “banana republics.”

Contrary to Trump and his defenders’ claims, however, many industrialized countries have not only served warrants on their presidents and prime ministers, they have jailed them as well.

While no former American president has been sentenced to prison, history shows both that the United States is one of only a few large nations not to have jailed past executives for crimes. Refusing to prosecute presidential criminality is actually the “banana republic” move.

France is the most prominent major country to have conducted criminal trials of past executives. In 2021, former center-right president Nicolas Sarkozy was convicted for illegally exceeding campaign spending limits in a 2013 race, a verdict which carried a one-year home confinement sentence. He has not served his time yet since his appeal of the case is pending.

The campaign finance trial was Sarkozy’s second conviction of that year. In March 2021, he was found guilty of trying to bribe a judge in 2014 and was sentenced to three years in jail with two of them suspended. He appealed the verdict but was denied last month and will be required to wear an electronic monitor and serve his sentence from home confinement. French prosecutors have also announced that they intend to bring a third case.

Sarkozy is not the only former top French government official to have been recently convicted of crimes. In 2020, his former prime minister, François Fillon, who was running a later campaign for the presidency, was convicted of embezzlement for giving his wife and two of their children nonexistent jobs. Their verdicts were upheld on appeal but both were given suspended sentences.

In Italy, for the past several decades, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has faced numerous trials for a variety of crimes, including solicitation of an underage prostitute. He was found guilty of tax fraud in 2013 and sentenced to one year community service and also expelled from the Italian Senate. Several other cases involving him are still in the country’s judicial system.

Elsewhere in the world, Hong Kong made headlines in 2017 for convicting and sentencing former Chief Executive (Hong Kong’s highest office) Donald Tsang for illegally failing to disclose that he would be renting a penthouse from a television executive who was trying to renew his company’s license. It was one of a number of accusations Tsang faced as chief executive of accepting favors from private business. In his last month in office, he tearfully apologized for his conduct, but continued to appeal his case, eventually prevailing on a technicality about a judge’s jury instructions.

Hong Kong is one of several Asian nations which have recently prosecuted or even jailed top politicians. Former Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka was one of several politicians convicted in a 1970s scandal in which U.S. aerospace company Lockheed Martin was accused of bribing government officials in several different nations. Tanaka continued to appeal his conviction up until his death in 1993.

More recently, two of South Korea’s former presidents, Lee Wan-koo and Lee Myung-bak, were convicted and sentenced for corruption. So were two prime ministers, Han Myeong-sook and Choi Kyoung-hwan.

Israel is another prominent world nation which has seen a top executive serve jail time. Ehud Olmert, a veteran politician who had been dogged by corruption allegations for decades, was indicted for alleged corruption while serving as prime minister. Olmert was subsequently convicted in another case and sentenced to 27 months in prison (he was released in 2017 after serving 16 months). Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netyanyahu has been on trial since 2020 for bribery and other corruption allegations.

While the idea of an ex-president having to serve jail time is unprecedented in the United States, the reality is that there are so many other former heads of state worldwide who have been convicted and jailed for crimes that Wikipedia has a dedicated page listing them. The U.S. surely would have been one of the countries on the list if then-president Gerald Ford had not pardoned his predecessor, Richard Nixon, an act which set an unfortunate precedent of allowing presidents to evade the justice system.

During his term in office, Trump was notorious for trying to use the presidency for his personal advantage, seeking to hold official events at his hotels and golf resorts, appointing his daughter and son-in-law to top advisory roles despite them having no political experience, and reportedly destroying or keeping government documents routinely.

As president, Trump benefited from the Department of Justice’s longstanding internal policy of refusing to indict a currently serving chief executive, but with his term firmly over, Trump is finally beginning to face accountability for his actions. While the Department of Justice’s efforts to compel Trump to return thousands of documents he had improperly taken from the White House are certainly unusual in American history, it’s actually an indicator that the country’s institutions are finally asserting themselves against a man who has disobeyed and denigrated them for his entire political career. In fact, the more that’s learned about the affair, the more it seems that Trump was given special treatment for actions that would have led to immediate arrest and imprisonment for any other American.

It’s unfortunate when a country has to prosecute a former chief executive, but if the investigation is conducted independent of the current leader and operates under judicial oversight, cases like these play an important role in protecting the rule of law and sending a message that no one is exempt from it.