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Chinese tourist accused of smuggling cultural relics from Turkey

04-02-2012 09:05 BJT

Shanghai tourist Du Chengyi's journey to Turkey took a disastrous turn when local police accused him of smuggling cultural relics, despite his pleas of innocence.

Du and his wife and mother-in-law flew from Brussels, Belgium to Istanbul, Turkey on March 18 before traveling to the southwestern tourist city of Antalya, where he bought a piece of rectangular stone from a roadside peddler at a cost of 20 euros.

"I know Turkey is a major marble exporter and is famous for its stone, so I bought the stone as a souvenir," Du said.

When they departed Antalya four days later, they were informed by customs officers at a local airport that they were under suspicion of smuggling, adding that the stone is considered to be a cultural artifact, Du recalled.

Du and his family members were taken away by police and put in a detention house, where they were waiting for a court ruling. If convicted, the three will be fined and jailed according to Turkish law.

With the help of the Chinese embassy in Turkey, Du and his family members were freed from the detention house, but were confined in Antalya until a local court can come up with a ruling.

Du wrote about his experience on Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging site. His post was forwarded by thousands of users, including an official account used by the Turkish Tourism Bureau.

Under the mediation of the bureau and other parties, Turkish authorities finally freed the three and allowed them to return to China on Wednesday.

However, Du still faces a smuggling charge and a verdict is expected to be announced on April 10. Du has insisted that he is innocent, saying he was not aware of a Turkish ban on exports of certain stones.

"To make matters worse, I didn't request an invoice for the stone, as it was purchased at a flea market," Du said.

According to the Chinese embassy in Turkey, Turkish authorities have banned exports of several types of stones, including meerschaum, which is widely used to make smoking pipes and cigarette holders.

"I hope Turkish authorities will provide similar information to people in advance in the future. Otherwise, things like this could happen again to other foreign tourists," Du said.

Microblogger Zhang Wen said Turkish authorities should not only keep a close eye on foreign tourists, but also crack down on domestic smugglers who operate black markets.

Editor:Shi Jierui |Source: Xinhua

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