A Turkish scholar facing up to eight years in prison for trying to take old books out of Armenia insisted on his innocence in a Yerevan court on Friday as prosecutors pressed the unusually harsh smuggling charges leveled against him.
Yektan Turkyilmaz, who was arrested at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport almost two months ago, pleaded not guilty to the most serious of the accusations and reiterated that he was unaware of an Armenian law that requires a government permission for the export of such books and other “cultural values” from the country.
That the ex-KGB was instrumental in Turkyilmaz’s arrest and prosecution was confirmed at the trial. It emerged that NSS officers stopped Turkyilmaz and had customs officers double-check his baggage just as he was about to board the Istanbul-bound plane. It is not clear what prompted them to do that. The Turkish national had already passed customs and passport control and checked in his two suit cases where most of the books were later found stashed.
The very fact of NSS agents checking a foreign passenger is extraordinary in itself. Sources familiar with the case told RFE/RL earlier that the security agency initially suspected Turkyilmaz of espionage but lacked the evidence to prosecute him on relevant charges. Piloyan refused to comment on the claims. The prosecutor also said NSS officers involved in the arrest will not testify at the trial.
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