A Flemish tourist on vacation in Turkey is being detained until further notice after being accused of “smuggling archaeological artifacts.”
Kimberly Mergits and her partner Warre were vacationing in Turkey from Duerne, Belgium, earlier this month, but their trip ended “in a nightmare,” according to a fundraiser set up for Mergits and her family. Mergits did not respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment.
During their vacation, the couple took a day trip to Manavgat, known for its historical ruins and waterfalls, and “innocently” picked up three stones from a vacant lot to place in her aquarium at home, according to Flemish news outlet De Morgen. One stone had flowers carved into it, and the other two looked like they were made of marble.
Mergits commonly takes stones from her travels as souvenirs, according to the Brussels Times.
Security at Antalya Airport in Turkey flagged the couple’s suitcase with stones and denied boarding. In a video interview, Mergits told the De Morgen outlet that she and Warre immediately opened their suitcase and told officials they weren’t even near a museum.
“He then said that I am suspected of smuggling archaeological stones,” she said in the video interview.
It’s against Turkish law to move “cultural and natural assets” from the country.
While her partner was able to return home, Mergits was told she’d have to stay in Turkey until the investigation was complete – which could take weeks, according to her fundraiser – since the trip was booked under her name.
“We actually don't know when that process will happen,” she said in the interview. “They just told us to wait and see.”
Mergits has to cover the expenses of staying in Turkey on her own. Her mother has also traveled to Turkey “as support.”
Some media have reported that experts from the Antalya Museum concluded the stones have archeological value, that the flower-engraved stone is “an architectural decoration piece” and the other two are “floor items.”
The Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism did not respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment.
Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at email@example.com
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tourist detained in Turkey for allegedly stealing stones during trip