Who is Jason Dement?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Purvis grad reportedly detained in Turkey - WDAM.COM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

Purvis grad reportedly detained in Turkey - WDAM.COM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports
by Brad Kessie (WLOX)

US tourist who says he picked up stones on Turkish beach faces smuggling charges

US tourist who says he picked up stones on Turkish beach faces smuggling charges
AP Journalist Suzan Fraser

US tourist faces trial in Turkey - WHLT 22 Connecting the Pine Belt

US tourist faces trial in Turkey - WHLT 22 Connecting the Pine Belt

Part 2 - The End of a Vacation / The Beginning of a Nightmare [Updated]

Sunday, 14 April 2013 - Part 2
Antalya, Turkey

Once we arrived at the Police Precinct, I was shuffled through their entrance and came face to face with many more police officers.  They were all ordering me to do something different and no one was doing it in English.  They had an xray belt and once again I was being told to put my luggage through it, but wait no, don't do that.  We want you to empty the luggage.  Then someone with higher rank enters the room and wants me to go back to an interrogation room instead.  I sat back in that room in a chair for over an hour answering question that were being asked in Turkish by an uptight angry sounding policeman whose words were being translated by a meek and quiet Securitas Security Guard from the airport who's English was barely passing.  Another officer joined the room and the conversation at one point.  He was younger than the other officers but wore officer rank on his collar resembling that of an Army Major.   He spoke English pretty well, much better than my translator, and he began to talk to me about the offense of taking cultural artifacts from Turkey.  He told me I shouldn't worry about it, it's no big deal.  He said they see it all the time and that they are fully aware of the fact that I didn't realize I was doing anything illegal.  "This will all go smoothly" he said.  He told me I was not under arrest, but they had to take me to a doctor and get my fingerprints and photos taken that night and the next day I would see the Judge.
It all sounded pretty easy.  I thought surely I would be on a plane back to my family the next day.  He did say I would see the judge around 11AM.  But now, it was time to sign papers... stacks of papers I didn't understand, briefly summarized into a sentence or two of English.  Then I was presented with papers to inform my Consulate, or not to inform my Consulate of the situation.  I was told that usually, you inform the consulate if you are arrested, but since I was not arrested, it would probably only make my consulate think I'd done something bad.  So in a way, I was sort of talked into opting out of informing my Consulate.  Remember, I'm being lead to believe that this will all be over the next day.  Why would I want anything to happen that would extend the time it takes to clear this all up?
The next thing that happened:  All of my personal items were taken from me, my phone, wallet, everything in my pockets and inventoried.  They put it in a bag and told me I could have it back the next day.  They almost made me remove my piercings to put in the bag too but an older gentle fellow type policeman who'd sat quiet through all of it voiced his disagreement and ultimately allowing me to retain some dignity.
So I was loaded into a police van outside the precinct and found myself riding alongside two criminals who were handcuffed together.  I have no clue what they'd done.  The rest of the van filled up with policemen and then we were off, headed to some local doctor whom I would later discover, had some kind of contract with the police for fast and easy service. (EDIT: this is a failsafe procedure to prevent Police brutality and to prevent the detained from claiming they were abused by police)  At the rundown, ramshackle doctor's office, all three of us prisoners were lead into an examination room where we were asked if we were feeling ok or if we hurt anywhere.  It was actually one of the other prisoners who translated the questions for me.  Get that. The Cops nor the doctor could (not that I think everyone should be able to speak English, it is just interesting sometimes who can and who can't).  After replying that I was fine, I got a stamp on my paper and we were back in the van.
Our next destination was another Police Precinct somewhere a good ways away.  The parking lot was full of police vehicles and there were some cops walking around with some mean looking firearms shoulder slung with grip in hand.  The cop who escorted me this time was a prick (personal opinion here of someone's personality.  Not a judgement of his job performance).  He didn't tell me where to go, he just did a lot of shoving and pushing.  I was lead inside to sit on some ancient metal bench until the fingerprint guy was ready for me.  The had a roller of black ink and a long table that the ran the roller across several times to make a big black strip.  Then he took each finger from both hands and made two copies of finger print cards.  Back to the bench for me and then eventually into a little corner for mug shots.  Frontal, left and right with the little scale in front of me... the real deal.  I'd been awake for about 20 hours already by then and been through the mill so I'm sure they were amazing mug shots.  Then once again, I had to sit on the metal bench.  The rude annoying cop was sitting close to me and the poor English speaking translator as well.  Must have sucked for him too because at one time during the long wait he asked me "Are you bored?"  Totally caught me off guard.  I told him "No, I'm distressed, tired, upset and miss my family.  You're bored".  He said "A little bit, yes".  Amazing... The annoying, self important cop blabbered on and on talking to some other criminal that was lead in, and later he became obsessed with my American passport, thumbing through it page for page and reading all the quotes, looking at pictures and admiring my visa stamps.  He handled it more than I ever have.  He also got into a sneezing fit and thoroughly contaminated my passport.  I passed out multiple times sitting on that bench, awakened over and over but unable to just stay fully awake.
When finally we left the building and I was shoved back into the van, the other prisoners were no longer there.  Two cops were driving, the translator and I were in the back and then the mean cop climbed in with us.  I didn't have a jacket since they'd taken it from me back at the first precinct and now the door is open wide and cops are just shooting the shit and talking to each other like they hadn't seen each other in years.  I'm now freezing on top of the list of other things that sucked about the night.  Once we drove out of the parking lot and back onto the streets, I quickly began to miss the relative safety of that old metal bench.

So once again I was taken to the same doctor's office.  This time I was his only patient so I had to actually remove my hat and shirt so he had time to check for bruises and such.  Apparently the police cover their asses by making a doctor's visit between every location.  Such a pain but ultimately, a good idea.  The doctors office was in a questionable state of cleanliness and unsettled me.

My next destination was back to the first precinct within airport grounds.  This time there was no shoving me into the building.  I was actually allowed to walk in on my own.  The lobby has a big square coffee table surrounded by couch-like chairs.  All of the couches were full save one and I was invited by the officer to take a seat.  The coffee table was covered in newspapers  and on top of the newspapers were mountains of shells very similar to sunflower seeds.  They picked up and wrapped the newspapers around the discarded shells and sent it off to the trash but quickly placed a fresh layer of newspaper on the table and presented new bags of seeds.  I was told they would bring me some Turkish tea and they also insisted that I try one of their seeds.  Of course I failed miserably at my first attempt ever that I didn't even feel like attempting and they got such amusement from it.  These guys were just sitting around bullshitting, laughing and talking and unfortunately I don't speak Turkish.  I had no idea what was going on.  I told their officer that I needed to contact my family.  I needed to check on them and let them know I was OK.  It was about time I figured that my wife had made her flight safely back to Germany and probably had finished the drive from the airport.  He allowed me to make a call.  First we had to get my phone from the evidence room and I had to fill out papers saying who I was calling.  I was told 10 minutes max and afterwards they would take my phone again.  It was so very hard and emotional.  Sheila had issues back in Germany with her card not reading in the machine so she couldn't pay for parking.  Her SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement [visa to be in Germany]) was in my wallet so she had trouble on arrival and we were emotionally distraught on top of it all.  I had to shortly say good bye though and turn my phone back in.
Next I requested a place to get some sleep.  I was devastatingly tired.  The officer told me that would be no problem but I would meet my lawyer soon.  I had no idea he was coming yet 2 minutes later, a regular looking guy in street clothes came in and they declared this guy was my lawyer and would be representing me at court.  His service was no cost to me as it was provided by the government.  He didn't speak English, at all.  Oh man... could it get any worse.  How was court supposed to go well with this lawyer?  I mean he was a nice guy from what I could tell and it wasn't his responsibility to speak English but I was so worried about how I was supposed to know what was happening in court and how could my lawyer advise me if we couldn't speak?  He gave me his business card and had someone tell me that I could call him if I needed anything..... yeah, right.  I just wanted to go to sleep.  The airport security guard who'd been my "translator" spoke some with me, telling me everything will be ok.  He's sure of it.  He told me he would be with me at the court the next day to be my translator.  I was grateful for his desire to be of help but so very frightened that I would be missing more than half of what I needed to understand.  I was doomed for sure.
The policemen made me change my shoes to my flip flops.  It was either that or remove all the laces from my shoes.  Some sort of protection for them I suppose but still very weird to have me do at this hour.
I was lead to a place to sleep.  Not a comfy cot in a nice room.  No.  I was placed in a holding cell with a security window viewing outside, a camera on the ceiling, a bench-like couch covered in a plastic upholstery and I was given a dirty smelly blanket and pillow (Edit:  The next day, a cleaning lady came through the precinct, they cleaned the cells too and I watched her take the pillow and blanket that I had sweated profusely on and place them back in a locker full of other blankets and pillows).  Also, they would not turn off the fluorescent lights... I was to sleep in a tanning bed.  Once they closed the door, I was locked in.  The only thing I had in my possession was a extra passport photo of Sheila that I'd had in my wallet undisturbed a long time now.  It's the digital age so who needs a real photo right?  Well, at that point in time, I did.  And when I had to turn in all of my personal items, I refused to turn in the photo.  They hadn't pressed me on the subject so there I lay at around 4 am, finally going to sleep, staring at my photo of Sheila.
I awoke an hour later, suffocating from heat.  Someone had turned a heater on for my cell and there was no ventilation.  I banged on the heavy metal door until someone came to let me out and I nearly collapsed in the hallway.  It was SO hot.  The policeman immediately turned the heater off.  This was one of the policemen who'd been kind and gentle to me earlier that night.  I liked him.  I was allowed to go to the restroom where I freshened up at the sink with cold water.  I was soaked to the bone with sweat from the heat.  Afterwards, my exhausted mind and body headed back into the cell to salvage what rest I could from the rest of the morning before my next day started and I would go before court in a foreign land.

To be continued...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Part 1 - The End of a Vacation / The Beginning of a Nightmare [Updated - Contains photos]

Sunday, 14 April 2013 - PART 1
Antalya, Turkey

Sheila and I spent 6 days in Turkey, most of our time was at the Jasmine Beach Hotel in
T├╝rkler - Alanya.  We had a great time in Turkey and enjoyed delicious food and friendly local culture.  We arrived in the off season, most beaches not yet clean and tidy, and experienced less than perfect weather conditions during the first three days.  Our beach was covered in rocks and rubble, some trash and other things: not much sand, not as you would expect on a beach and the waves were crashing in a bit too hard to enjoy any R&R so we strolled the beach looking for rocks.  We have made it a point to collect some rocks and/or sand from every country we go to.  Eventually, on about the third day, the weather cleared up and the vacation season arrived with hotel employees working overtime through the night to get everything nice and shapely.  The rest of our vacation was sunny and beautiful and I was even able to manage a tan.

(Edit:  I forgot to mention a few things:  Hotel employees watched us picking up rocks for two days, served us drinks on the beach, and just smiled away.  None of them were aware that what we were doing could have gotten us in trouble.  /  Also of note is the fact that when they started working over night to clean up the beach, once night they had a bulldozer push the rocks and trash and things all the way to one end before removing them, essentially flattening the beach.  Another night, they brought in loads of sand and covered the beach with it.  The entire beach was covered in tracks and such and it took another couple of days for it to look like a real beach)

On our day of departure, all of our great experiences in Turkey were easily forgotten (for the moment).  Immediately after entering the doorway at Terminal 2 Departures, you'll find yourself in a security checkpoint.  There's an xray belt for your bags and a metal detector to walk through, all of it pretty standard stuff.  There were however, no signs or amnesty points to prepare us for what happened next.  Our luggage was pulled off the belt and I was ordered to open it.  A security guard pulled out the plastic baggie of rocks we had collected and dumped them out/sorted through them all.  Two of them he expressed much interest in and called other colleagues over.  No one would respond to my inquiries about what was going on.  Soon the security chief arrived and asked for our passports and we were escorted over to a waiting area.  The security guards, employees of Securitas, didn't speak English.  They led me to an information desk where one of the ladies did and she translated for them.  It was there that I discovered that they believed two of my stones to be historical artifacts.  The girl doing the translating told me that they would be sending the stones to a local museum historian to verify whether or not they were indeed historical artifacts. (initially, they didn't send the physical stones, rather they sent a high resolution photo)  Bear in mind, this is around 11:00 PM on a Sunday night.  She said I would not be boarding my plane.  In fact I could end up in trouble and get banned from Turkey.  Sheila and I are stressing out, no one else giving us any information when finally they came over to ask "who the stones belonged to".  I quickly stated they were mine and shortly after they told Sheila she was free to catch her flight.  She didn't have to stay.  We weren't prepared for that of course, so unprepared.  We quickly decided that was the best since our children needed their mom back.  Our luggage was all combined so we were rapidly trying to separate the important things that each of us needed and then I got a brief kiss before they whisked her away.
(Edit:  I ended up with the suit case that was mostly full of Sheila's things and a few articles of my dirty clothes.  What luck right?)
So I found myself sitting next to an information desk.  So very alone... waiting for the Turkish Police to show up.  They finally showed up 20 minutes later (Our flight was supposed to leave at 11:50PM and I'm still hopeful to make it).  They lead me back to a tiny room with a desk and chairs in it.  There were 5 police officers and a couple of Securitas employees, all of them talking amongst themselves, ignoring me, typing, printing and retyping an printing documents.  Over and over.  Then they had a travel guide speaking English stop in to be a witness, briefly read the document to inform me that I was found to have been carrying historical stones and then I had to sign the papers.  Time kept stretching by and by and eventually, the flight was ready to depart.  Sheila was forced to give up waiting at the gate and board the plane without me.  It was so very hard.  I had been watching the time on my phone tick painfully by and just hoping and hoping they would let me catch my flight.  To read that last message from Sheila saying that her plane was leaving and how hard it was... it was pretty heartbreaking.
In the hours to come, I really lost track of time.  Other policemen came and decided the papers weren't correct so they had to be redone and this time the travel agent couldn't be found so they just nabbed some random Securitas guy who said he spoke English.  He was forced to be my police assigned translator but the poor guy couldn't communicate with me as well as he would like... I was always guessing at what he was saying and some of the things they wanted him to tell me, I was sure I only got a small part of.

(I would like to say, if he ever reads my blog, I just want him to know that I appreciate his kindness and his attempts to help me, a stranger, in that difficult time)

We did finally end up leaving the airport:  I was loaded into a police van with my luggage and my Securitas translator and we were bussed off to the local Police precinct within the airport grounds. 

The following photos were taken at the beach in front of our hotel where we collected rocks the first couple of days.

Continued in Part 2