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Mississippian arrested in Turkey for collecting beach rocks

PURVIS — An American tourist who collected stones during a six-day beach holiday with his wife was briefly detained in Turkey and faces trial for attempting to smuggle historical artifacts.

Jason Dement was taken into custody by security officials at Antalya airport, near Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, on Sunday because two of the pieces inside a bag of stones appeared to be artifacts. On Monday, a court released him from custody but barred him from leaving Turkey.

His lawyer said Dement, 30, from Purvis, faces prosecution under strict Turkish laws against the smuggling of artifacts. Turkey has broad definitions about what constitutes historical artifacts and Fatma Zuhre Akinci, the lawyer, said a museum report confirmed the pieces picked out by the security officials to be artifacts.

The report, cited in court papers, did not say precisely what the pieces may have been or say how old they may be, Akinci said.

Dement said he and his wife, Sheila, have a habit of collecting stones as souvenirs. One of stones was a triangular-shaped rough marble piece that looked as though it came from a modern building.

The other was a slanted, five-inch long, brick-colored piece that had been washed by the sea and looked like it could have been old masonry.

“It had no inscription,” Dement told The Associated Press by telephone from a hotel in Antalya. “It came from an ordinary beach. There were no historical sites around, no ancient ruins.”

Dement, a former soldier, is a civilian employee at the Katterbach U.S. Army base in Germany. His wife, who is also employed at the base was not detained and was allowed to board the plane for Germany on Sunday.

On a blog he created seeking help to cover his costs while in Turkey, Dement said: “The judge is awaiting an official report from a museum historian that will weigh in on the true value of the ‘artifact’ …. and this will be a huge factor in the next phase of my court struggle.”

The punishment for smuggling ancient artifacts is up to 12 years in prison.

 

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