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Some souvenirs may land you in jail!

There are recent horror stories about American tourists who were arrested and imprisoned when trying to leave Turkey, when they thought in good conscience that they were taking with them legal souvenirs. The Chicago Tribune on March 7, 2015 carried a story headlined "Chicago couple's cautionary tale: Turkey vacation ends in putrid prison cell."

The article appears at this link on the newspaper's website:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-turkish-prison-chicago-vacation-met-20150306-story.html#page=1

Posted by
9363 posts

Sounds interesting, but I don't want to register for an account and login just to read it. Care to sum it up?

Posted by
5 posts

Sorry - it's lengthy and difficult to summarize. Also, the Tribune story is copyrighted. Suggest checking the web over the next few days to see if other media pick up the story.

Posted by
5 posts

Have a great trip, Vincent. When you get back, perhaps you can post any thoughts to this topic based on your experience. Stay safe!

Posted by
9363 posts

Interesting that neither of the "stones" seemed to actually be native stones (a piece of what appears to be broken masonry and another that appears to be from a building). The article isn't really difficult to summarize. These people were stopped by the authorities with stones in their luggage that they say they collected as souvenirs. Apparently, two of these appeared to authorities to be not stones, but "artifacts". The husband was detained and they await a decision as to whether these are stones or historical artifacts. Turkey seems exceptionally careful about not wanting artifacts carried off by tourists.

Posted by
6334 posts

Nancy, I'm confused. The article in the link says it's about a sword that the guy bought at the bazaar, I didn't see anything about stones. Did I get the wrong article?

Posted by
5 posts

@ Nancy in Corvallis - You have the correct article. The other Nancy in Bloomington, Illinois appears to have summarized a different article. The current Tribune story is 2,500 words long and makes mention of incidents involving stones within the last couple years, but the main subject of the current article is a sword that Mr. O'Connor purchased last fall at a bazaar.

Posted by
9363 posts

Yes, it was a different incident. In the article I read, they had collected stones, some of which the authorities thought might be artifacts. Same basic scenario.

Posted by
6334 posts

The Sword wasn't exactly some cheap souvenir. If some dude shells out $500 (which he admits was a bargained down price) for a sword at the Grand Bazaar I'm thinkin' he had some idea that it was authentic, otherwise he wouldn't have bought it. He tried to get away with something and got caught.

Posted by
5 posts

In fairness to Mr. O'Connor, there is nothing whatsoever to warrant the implication that he ever intended to try pulling a fast one. For one thing, he was on a trip sponsored by one of the most highly respected churches in Chicago. Second, he is a successful and wealthy businessman with a good reputation in the community. Implying that he would cheat or knowingly break the law is simply not deserved. An excerpt from the Tribune story:

"O'Connor, a history buff, and the shop owner surmised it was from the early 1900s — relatively new for a country where civilizations can be traced back to the Stone Age.

"'I wouldn't have bought anything that was really old,' O'Connor said. 'I wanted something I could buy as a memento.'

"Two days later, on Nov. 20, the couple arrived at Ataturk Airport for their flight home and went through the metal detectors set up near the entrance. Maureen O'Connor froze when two security guards pulled the sword out of a red suitcase containing all their souvenirs.

"'I was like, 'They think we're going to bring that on the plane!' she recalled. 'I said, 'No, no, no, we are checking that.'

"That wasn't the problem, though it took some time for the O'Connors to figure that out because of the language barrier. Eventually a woman who spoke a bit of English explained that Martin O'Connor had to go with police while they sent the sword across town to the Topkapi Palace Museum to determine whether the weapon could be exported."

And finally:

"It wasn't until more than a month later that the court heard from a weapons expert with the national museum who confirmed that the first inspector had been wrong: The weapon was a standard-issue 'bombardier's sword' from the 20th century, not an antiquity, court records show.

"'It is not a cultural property that should be protected,' the expert's report said. 'These kinds of properties (carpet, rug, and wooden properties) can be taken out of the country with the relevant museum's permission.'"