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March 28, 2012

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Family face trial over Turkey 'relic'

THREE Shanghai tourists who bought a piece of stone from a vendor in Turkey are set to go on trial there, accused of smuggling cultural relics.

Robin Du and his wife, whose surname is Shen, and mother-in-law went to Turkey from Belgium on March 18, as part of a tour.

They purchased a rectangular stone for 20 euro (US$26.7) outside a scenic area in Antalya.

But when leaving the city last Thursday, Du was told at the airport that the stone was a cultural relic which cannot be taken out of Turkey.

"I thought it was just a piece of common marble," said Du.

"It was finely polished on both sides, so how could it be a cultural relic?"

Airport officials asked Du for an invoice for the stone, which he didn't have. "I've never asked for any invoice when I've bought souvenirs," he said.

Du and his family were detained by the police. They had their fingerprints taken, underwent a physical examination and were photographed.

They spent a night in the police station and last Friday a court announced that they were not guilty. However, this was rejected by prosecutors.

Du and his mother-in-law were allowed to stay in a hotel, but Shen was kept in a detention center for foreigners.

Due to difficulties in communications, Du asked for help on the microblogging site. The post aroused wide concern, including from the Turkey tourism office in China.

The Chinese Embassy in Turkey is now helping Du to communicate with the court and Shen has been released from the detention center.

The embassy said under Turkish law some stones cannot be taken out of the country, but officials are still investigating.

Travel agencies said such cases have been rare in recent years.

However, the agencies said they would remind customers that when visiting a country rich in cultural relics they are not supposed to pick up objects found at tourist sites.


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