International Law

Picking up stones on beach gets American tourist criminally prosecuted in Turkey

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In the latest example of the pitfalls that can potentially await a foreign tourist unfamiliar with the laws of the land he or she is visiting, an American tourist who says he indulged his hobby of pocketing stones on the beach while traveling with his wife in Turkey is now facing a criminal prosecution there.

Jason Dement is accused of attempting to smuggle ancient artifacts, because two of the stones he tried to take home with him allegedly have historical significance, the Associated Press reports. He was taken into custody on Sunday at an airport, when security officials spotted the claimed artifacts in his luggage.

He said one of the questioned stones was a rough marble piece that might have come off a modern building. The other might have been a piece of old masonry, eroded by the ocean.

“It had no inscription,” Dement told the AP in a telephone interview. “It came from an ordinary beach. There were no historical sites around, no ancient ruins.”

In a blog post, he said an expert opinion is being sought by the judge in the case to determine the value of the pieces. How much they are worth “will be a huge factor in the next phase of my court struggle,” he wrote.

If convicted, he could face a prison sentence of as much as 12 years.

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