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Belgian man dies under house arrest in Beijing

BEIJING (AP) – A Belgian art dealer who has been under house arrest for years in Beijing for antiquities smuggling has died of a heart attack, Belgium’s Foreign Ministry said Friday.

Kurt De Raedemaeker, 48, died in a Beijing hotel on March 6, Foreign Ministry spokesman Michel Malherbe confirmed. He said De Raedemaeker was convicted on charges of smuggling antiquities in 2003.

Because of his poor health De Raedemaeker was put under house arrest in a hotel instead of serving time in prison, Malherbe said.

The Belgian government was trying to get permission from China for the art dealer to return to Belgium for humanitarian reasons when he died, Malherbe said.

Belgian media said De Raedemaeker purchased a sarcophagus in Beijing in 2003, but Chinese authorities _ saying the antique was a national treasure _ demanded its return. The sarcophagus ended up in a Paris museum.

The media reports said De Raedemaeker had claimed he had broken no laws.

Malherbe said the body of De Raedemaeker, who was known to have heart problems before his death, has been sent back to Belgium to be buried.

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