Syrian woman faces 12 years in jail for 'smuggling ancient coins'
ISTANBULA Syrian woman is facing up to 12 years in prison after she was detained in an Istanbul airport for allegedly smuggling ancient coins.
Salwa Jerbakah, a 36-year-old Syrian woman planning to fly to Stockholm from Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport, was stopped and searched by airport authorities on April 9, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Upon the discovery by authorities that Jerbakah had 173 apparently antique coins in her suitcase, the Syrian woman was brought up on smuggling charges.
The chief public prosecutor’s office in Istanbul’s Bakırköy district demanded on Dec. 8 that Jerbakah be imprisoned from five to 12 years in Turkey in the case filed against her on the charge of “smuggling cultural and natural properties.”
Jerbakah, who told investigators she was a student, claimed to have bought the historic coins in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, and was planning to take them to Stockholm, where she lives. Jerbakah said she was unaware that it was a crime.
After her testimony, Jerbakah was released pending trial and returned to Sweden, while the coins were seized by the Turkish authorities.
According to an expert report prepared by the Culture and Tourism Istanbul Provincial Directorate, 10 of the 173 coins belonged to the Ottoman era. The coins are currently under protection in an Istanbul museum.
The report added there was also one Russian, seven British and two Iranian coins, however most of the other historic coins proved to be fakes.
The charges came less than a month after a woman in the eastern province of Bitlis, who was detained for smuggling historical artifacts in mid-November, claimed the artifacts seized in a police raid were given to her as wedding gifts.
Around 103 artifacts, including Ottoman gold coins with the sultan’s signature, mini sculptures and janus-headed eagle figures, were later handed over to a museum in Bitlis.