Turkish Police Thwart Sale of Ancient Torah by Suspected Syrian Smuggler
A Syrian was arrested in Istanbul while attempting to sell a 600-year-old Torah online for $5 million, a Turkish English-language daily reported on Thursday.
The suspect, a lawyer identified as Osama Ali T., was detained by undercover officers posing as purchasers of the ancient Jewish holy book, according to the Daily Sabah, a news outlet associated with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP Party.
According to the report, Turkish police handed over the Torah — whose pages are made of whale leather – to the Topkapi Palace Museum for examination. The suspect, who claimed during his interrogation that the book belonged to his family, and that he had brought it to Turkey with him after leaving his war-torn country, was released from custody.
This is not the first time that Turkish police have encountered the smuggling of religious artifacts from Syria, according to the Daily Sabah, which said that the civil war there has led to an increase of such incidents. In 2012, a 1,900-year old Torah was confiscated before its smugglers managed to sell it in Adana.
This practice has led to a crackdown by the Turkish government, which has reportedly issued a list of artifacts to customs agents and collectors, alerting them to be wary of their purchase.