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Expelled reporter denies smuggling charges

HAMBURG, West Germany -- A West German magazine reporter expelled from Peking for alleged smuggling said Wednesday the Chinese charges were false and he was ejected for political reasons.

'The charges against me are false and fabricated,' said Tiziano Terzani, Der Spiegel magazine correspondent in Peking for four years until his expulsion Monday.

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'The real reason for my expulsion is that I had written a number of articles about the destruction of Chinese culture which evidently displeased the authorities,' Terzani told United Press International.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry Information Department in Peking said Terzani was caught 'red-handed' trying to take valuable antiques out of China at a customs post near Macao, a Portugese-administered territory near Hong Kong.

After Terzani returned to Peking, security officials confronted him and he signed a confession after more relics were found in his apartment, spokesman Wang Zhenyu said at a weekly news briefing.

Wang said Terzani, who paid a $1,000 fine and lost his press credentials, could have received a light jail sentence and been fined 50,000 yuan ($25,000) but was treated leniently because he confessed.

Terzani did not deny having relics but said most were of little value and were bought on the open market.

'If I am to be kicked out for possessing this kind of junk, then so should the whole of the Western community in Peking,' he said.

Terzani said he had written a number of articles criticising the systematic destruction of traditional Chinese culture.

'I now find it highly ironic that I have been expelled for allegedly stealing historic relics that I have accused the authorities of destroying,' he said.

Witnesses and sources familiar with the case said police went to Terzani's apartment Feb. 11 and led him away with his jacket pulled over his head.

His clothes were torn when a scuffle broke out after he screamed for help. He was interrogated for 17 hours, the sources said.

Wang denied witness reports that police beat Terzani. 'I heard he bit the hand of a Public Security Bureau person and prevented the Public Security Bureau from doing its job,' he said.

A total of 57 historical relics were found in Terzani's possession, including 23 which cannot be taken out of China, Wang said. He could not describe or identify the pieces.

Terzani was the first Peking correspondent to be ousted since Dutch reporter Willen Van Kemande was told to leave in June, 1981, following the sale of Dutch submarines to Taiwan.

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