A three-month holiday in Bulgaria, where a family from Florence was visiting close relatives, ended as a nightmare in a Greek prison. Travelling through Greece on their return to Italy, they were accused of attempting to smuggle Hellenic artefacts out of the country. The family of four was detained for two days by Greek customs officials before three were freed last week. The father, who remains in jail, faces a 10-year sentence if found guilty.
The mother, originally from Bulgaria, had to pay a 18,000 euro bail—in cash. The couple’s two children, ages four and nine, also imprisoned for the two-day period, were forced to sleep on the floor of their cell. Defence attorneys for the family claim that the ‘degrading’ and ‘inhumane conditions’ of the jail in which the family was detained were a violation of EU principles of human rights.
On September 3, the family travelled to Greece from Bulgaria in their motor home. They stayed the night in the Greek port city of Igoumenitsa. The following day, planning to return to Italy, they were stopped in the port by customs officers, who found 300 coins and 83 Byzantine crosses in their possession.
The family maintains that all of the items were purchased legally in Bulgaria. Customs officials in Greece, believing the objects might be Greek archaeological treasures, have begun an investigation.