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American detained in Turkey for smuggling artifacts returns home to Germany

A defense contractor detained in Turkey after stones he collected near his beachfront hotel were confiscated by authorities, who said they were ancient artifacts, returned to Germany on Saturday after a court suspended the case, he said.

Jason Dement, 30, said a Turkish court deferred adjudication in his case for five years, meaning that if he does not break any laws in the country during that time, the case will be dismissed. He will not need to return to the country, he said.

A terminal manager at an Army garrison in Ansbach, and a former soldier, Dement and his wife were stopped at the airport in the resort town of Antalya, in southern Turkey, at the end of a brief vacation last month. Security discovered a bag of stones Dement said he collected on the beach, and confiscated two of the rocks.

After a museum determined the stones were ancient artifacts, Dement was detained and his wife allowed to return to Germany.

Dement remained in Antalya for nearly a month under a travel ban. Vacation days from work covered the majority of the time, he said, but he went a week without pay. Through an online blog detailing his situation, Dement raised $7,000 in donations, which he believed would cover most of his expenses, including a lawyer, court fees and phone bills.

Turkey has a broad definition of cultural artifacts, according to the State Department, and it regularly prosecutes anyone believed to be removing antiquities from its borders. The penalty for smuggling antiquities is up to 12 years in prison, according to The Associated Press.

Dement said he told the judge at last week’s hearing that he would never pick up stones on a Turkish beach again. Wednesday, he said he had no plans to ever even see a Turkish beach again.

“I’ll never go back,” he said.

beardsley.steven@stripes.com
Twitter: @sjbeardsley

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