Turkey Working to Release Scholar Arrested for Stealing Historic Armenian Books

ANKARA (Combined Sources)–Turkey’s Foreign Affairs Ministry is working to release a Turkish student who was arrested on June 17 on charges of attempting to smuggle historic Armenian books out of the country. According to Turkish-based newspaper Milliyet–Turkey is arranging for the release of Yeftan Turkyilmaz through its Embassy in Tbilisi–Georgia.

Turkyilmaz–who became last month the first Turkish historian who sought and was given access to the Armenian National Archive–was arrested at Yerevan’s Zvartnots Airport as he was about to board a plane bound for Istanbul. According to the National Security Service (NSS)–he carried undeclared Armenian-language books about history–religion–and geography published from the 17th to 19th centuries.

The security agency described them as "literature of high historical and cultural value." Under Armenian law–such items can not be taken out of the country without permission from the Ministry of Culture.

Turkyilmaz–who spent more than one month in Armenia–was charged under an article of the Armenian Criminal Code that carries heavy fines and up to five years in prison.

A doctoral student at the Duke University in North Carolina–Turkyilmaz said he is working with documen’s relating to activities of Turkish–Kurdish–and Armenian nationalist parties during the final decades of the Ottoman Empire.

It is unclear how the scholar obtained the old books. He was said to be experiencing financial difficulties and enjoyed discount fees for accessing archival materials. National Archive director Amatuni Virabian–said he believes Turkyilmaz did not deliberately break Armenian laws or regulations.

"He showed interest in books and I gave him a few [recently published] books," Virabian said. "But I didn’t know that he bought old books. You can transport anything except arms and drugs out of Turkey. I guess the guy thought things are the same here."

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