Turkey hopes for return of stolen sarcophagus

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Turkish cultural officials have expressed hopes of a prompt resolution to legal action to repatriate a 20-ton sarcophagus believed to have been taken from Antalya after a case was opened against a Swiss art gallery.

Turkey hopes for return of stolen sarcophagus
The sarcophagus, which was allegedly smuggled out of the ancient city of Perge in 2001, was seized following an anonymous tip on its whereabouts to Swiss Customs in Geneva [Credit: DHA]

The sarcophagus, which was allegedly smuggled out of the ancient Greek city of Perge in 2001, was seized following an anonymous tip on its whereabouts to Swiss Customs in Geneva.

The sarcophagus, which features relief carvings of the ancient Greek hero Herakles, was found at the Phoenix Ancient Art Gallery in Geneva. Aware of the artifact’s location, Swiss officials assigned a prosecutor to the case alongside a Turkish lawyer who was also appointed for the same purpose by Turkish officials.

Following talks with the Culture and Tourism Ministry Cultural Artifacts and Museums General Directorate, the Swiss prosecutor and Turkish lawyer met in Antalya last month and examined the place where the sarcophagus was removed.

Professor İnci Deleman and Professor Haluk Abbasoğlu, who are conducting excavations in Perge, also gave statements concerning the matter, with Antalya Public Prosecutor Osman Şanal present during the examination.

After the examination in Perge, the Swiss prosecutor met with A.Ç., who is imprisoned in Elmalı prison on a separate smuggling charge and is suspected of smuggling the artifact out of Perge. In discussions with the Swiss prosecutor, A.Ç allegedly confirmed that the artifact had been smuggled.

International legal proceedings began with the aim of repatriating the sarcophagus to Antalya. The case is being closely followed by the Antalya Public Prosecution Office as well as the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry and Foreign Ministry.

According to Turkish officials, legal action against the Phoenix Ancient Art Gallery will be completed by the end of the year, facilitating the return of the sarcophagus to Antalya.

Turkish authorities have so far succeeded in repatriating the Hattuşa Sphinx from Germany, as well as the top half of the Heracles statue from the Boston Museum, which is now being exhibited at Museum of Antalya. The top piece was stolen from an archaeological site in Turkey in 1980 and then smuggled to the U.S.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News [November 09, 2013]

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