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TURKEY

Swedish diplomat risks jail for stone smuggling

A Swedish diplomat risks a prison sentence after he was suspected of trying to smuggle ancient relics out of Turkey while returning from a family holiday.

The man, stationed at the Foreign Ministry in Stockholm, was stopped when he and his wife were returning home after a charter holiday.

The diplomat had a marble rock stowed away in his luggage.

The “10 centimetre marble stone” was an ancient relic, and the man is now suspected of having tried to smuggle it out of the country, reported national newspaper Expressen.

According to the diplomat’s wife, nobody had informed the couple that bringing these rocks home was forbidden.

“This is ludicrous. We had no idea that you couldn’t take stones home as souvenirs,” the woman told the paper.

“We don’t know now what will happen, or how long we’ll have to wait for a decision, but this is a mistake.”

The Foreign Ministry has confirmed that the man is apprehended, and staff from the consulate in Istanbul has been to visit the man.

“We haven’t heard any official criminal offense yet,” said the ministry’s press secretary Catarina Axelsson to news agency TT.

However, Expressen revealed that a source had informed that the Turkish authorities take these kind of crimes “extremely seriously”.

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ISLAM

Erdogan calls French separatism bill ‘guillotine’ of democracy

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday denounced a planned French law designed to counter "Islamist separatism" as a "guillotine" of democracy.

Erdogan calls French separatism bill 'guillotine' of democracy
Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as "anti-Muslim". Photo: Adem ALTAN/AFP

The draft legislation has been criticised both inside France and abroad for stigmatising Muslims and giving the state new powers to limit speech and religious groups.

“The adoption of this law, which is openly in contradiction of human rights, freedom of religion and European values, will be a guillotine blow inflicted on French democracy,” said Erdogan in a speech in Ankara.

The current version of the planned law would only serve the cause of extremism, putting NGOs under pressure and “forcing young people to choose between their beliefs and their education”, he added.

READ ALSO: What’s in France’s new law to crack down on Islamist extremism?

“We call on the French authorities, and first of all President (Emmanuel) Macron, to act sensibly,” he continued. “We expect a rapid withdrawal of this bill.”

Erdogan also said he was ready to work with France on security issues and integration, but relations between the two leaders have been strained for some time.

France’s government is in the process of passing new legislation to crack down on what it has termed “Islamist separatism”, which would give the state more power to vet and disband religious groups judged to be threats to the nation.

Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as “anti-Muslim”.

READ ALSO: Has Macron succeeded in creating an ‘Islam for France’?

Last October, Erdogan questioned Macron’s “mental health”, accusing him of waging a “campaign of hatred” against Islam, after the French president defended the right of cartoonists to caricature the prophet Mohammed.

The two countries are also at odds on a number of other issues, including Libya, Syria and the eastern Mediterranean.

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