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A US Museum Curator Was Detained in Turkey on Claims of Spider Smuggling

ISTANBUL (AP) — A curator at the American Museum of Natural History was detained in Istanbul while allegedly attempting to smuggle spider and scorpion samples, Turkish media reported. The curator said he had permits from the government to conduct his research.

Lorenzo Prendini, an expert on arachnids at the New York-based museum, was held by police at Istanbul Airport while allegedly trying to take about 1,500 samples out of the country, news outlets reported.

The state-run Anadolu news agency reported Monday that Prendini was detained for allegedly attempting to smuggle species found in Turkey. In emailed comments to The Associated Press, Prendini said he had appeared before a judge and was released without charge.

Video published by the Demiroren News Agency showed officers searching hand luggage and removing plastic bags that appeared to be packed with dead spiders and scorpions.

Prendini said the police had disregarded permits from the Turkish government to conduct his research in collaboration with Turkish scientists.

“The police completely ignored this and relied on the testimony of an ‘expert’ who has a conflict of interest with my collaborators … and whose scientific research is highly questionable,” he said.

In this photo released by Turkish security, confiscated spider and scorpion samples are displayed at the Istanbul Airport, Turkey on Monday, May 13, 2024. Turkish media say a curator at the American Museum of Natural History has been detained in Istanbul while allegedly attempting to smuggle spider and scorpion samples. Lorenzo Prendini, an expert on arachnids at the New York-based museum, says he has permits from the government to conduct his research. He was held by police at Istanbul Airport on Monday while allegedly trying to take about 1,500 samples out of the country. (Turkish Security Sources Via DIA)

“The police have completely violated due process and it appears they would like to find me guilty in the court of public opinion.”

The museum’s website lists Prendini as the curator of its spider, scorpion, centipede and millipede collections. It says his research into spiders and scorpions has taken him to more than 30 countries.

The museum did not respond to an email seeking comment.

In this photo released by Turkish security, confiscated spider and scorpion samples are displayed at the Istanbul Airport, Turkey on Monday, May 13, 2024. Turkish media say a curator at the American Museum of Natural History has been detained in Istanbul while allegedly attempting to smuggle spider and scorpion samples. Lorenzo Prendini, an expert on arachnids at the New York-based museum, says he has permits from the government to conduct his research. He was held by police at Istanbul Airport on Monday while allegedly trying to take about 1,500 samples out of the country. (Turkish Security Sources Via DIA)

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