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Turkey vacation ends in putrid prison cell

Europe Chicago trader spends eight harrowing days in prison after buying sword on church sponsored trip to Turkey. Chicago couple warn vacationers to Turkey that even a seemingly innocuous souvenir can land them in trouble.

Chicago businessman Martin O’Connor was at the tail end of a church sponsored trip to Turkey with his wife in November when he bought a sword engraved with Arabic script at Istanbul’s teeming Grand Bazaar.

Inside a cramped kiosk stuffed with military memorabilia, O’Connor haggled the price down to $500.

Two days later, as he and wife Maureen were about to fly home, the couple were stopped at an airport checkpoint by Turkish police who suspected the sword was a valuable antiquity. Assured that the matter would be cleared up quickly, O’Connor persuaded his wife to board the jet and told her he’d follow on the next flight.

Instead, the financial trader spent the next eight harrowing days locked up in a filthy prison, charged with attempting to smuggle an artifact, an offense that can bring up to 12 years behind bars.

Sword in question Courtesy Maureen O’Connor

This photo shows the sword Marty O’Connor bought on Nov. 18, 2014 at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. This picture was taken on Dec. 5th in the courtroom during the court appointed expert’s examination.

This photo shows the sword Marty O’Connor bought on Nov. 18, 2014 at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. This picture was taken on Dec. 5th in the courtroom during the court appointed expert’s examination.

“It’s been hell,” O’Connor, 50, told the Tribune. “I spent a fortune. I went through a nightmare, and my wife went through a nightmare not knowing what was happening with me in prison. . And I do not expect anyone to ever say they wholesale jerseys are sorry.”

The couple know they were fortunate to have had financial resources and family connections to fall back on. O’Connor’s father, Edmund, was a driving force behind the creation of the Chicago Board Options Exchange in the 1970s. Maureen, an attorney who volunteers with Catholic Charities, is the sister of an Illinois state senator who was able to bring significant political pressure to bear.

NewsOpposition leader shot dead in streets of TurkeySee all related8 After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and travel expenses, wholesale jerseys the O’Connors want their ordeal to serve as a warning to anyone vacationing in the region particularly college age kids with no cash or clout that even a seemingly innocuous souvenir could land them in trouble.

“If I did not have the money, if I did not have the connections and if I didn’t have a loving, hardworking, caring wife that managed it all and took care of it, I would still be in prison,” O’Connor said cheap nfl jerseys on a recent afternoon in his town home in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood. “I needed all three things.”

Black market smuggling

O’Connor’s travails in Turkey are not unheard of for a country that for centuries was looted by various powers only to be hit with the added insult of seeing its priceless artifacts put on display in museums around the world. The illegal sale of historical treasures has also been linked recently to the funding of terrorist groups such as the Islamic State, putting pressure on governments across the Middle East to clamp down.

In an effort to combat black market smuggling, Turkey has enacted laws that have broad definitions of what constitutes an artifact, and the government regularly prosecutes anyone believed to be removing antiquities from its borders. Department of Defense civilian contractor vacationing with his wife in Turkey was detained on suspicion of smuggling antiquities after he was found with some stones and debris he’d collected from the beach in front of his hotel. Like O’Connor, Jason Dement was whisked away from his wife at the airport and booked into custody. He wound up cutting a plea deal that allowed him to leave after he was detained just one night.

A few months earlier, Swiss police Chief Christian Varone was convicted of smuggling artifacts for taking a stone from near a historical site as a souvenir, but his sentence of a little more than a year in prison was suspended as long as he stayed out of trouble. At departure, you may be asked to present a receipt and the certificate. Failure to have them can result in your arrest and jail time.”

Old World charm

The O’Connors didn’t know of the recent arrests when they signed up to go to Turkey last fall with a group from Old St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago their first “empty nester” trip after their youngest child went off to college.

For a week and a half they lived it wholesale nfl jerseys up, soaking up the Old World charm of Turkey while touring ancient ruins and sites like the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia cathedral.

“It’s a beautiful country, and we were having a blast,” Maureen O’Connor said.

On their second to last day, the O’Connors went with a guide to the Grand Bazaar, a sprawling covered market with thousands of merchants that’s sometimes referred to as the top tourist destination in the world.Articles Connexes: