Cyprus Mail

Stolen artefacts repatriated

Thirty-four ancient artefacts stolen from the Turkish occupied north of the island were expected to return to Cyprus on Friday, the Church of Cyprus said.

The objects were found in Munich, Germany, in the possession of Turkish art dealer Aydin Dikmen.

Their repatriation had been ordered in March by the Munich Higher Regional Court.

The items include 24 religious artefacts. The rest are prehistoric.

Among them were three pairs of bema doors, murals, a written manuscript dating back to the 17th century, and the hand written gospel of the Armenian community, stolen in 1963.

An additional 173 artefacts found in Dikmen’s possession had been repatriated in 2013 while a legal procedure was underway for the return of 49 more.

In its decision in March, the court said the Republic had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the 49 items belonged to Cyprus.

As such, the Munich court said those 49 artefacts belonged to Dikmen, who in the past was confirmed by a US court to be a dealer in looted relics.

Cyprus plans to recover the 49 artefacts via a separate process with the Munich municipal court, which is expected to put up these items up for auction.

A Church official told the Cyprus Mail in March that the Republic would not pay anything extra if it recovers those items through the auction. The amount would be offset against the €0.5mln in fines which Dikmen has previously been ordered to pay the Church.

An estimated 20,000 religious, historical, and prehistoric artefacts were smuggled out of Cyprus in the years that followed the 1974 Turkish invasion.

In October 1997, Dikmen was found in possession of several thousand items from various countries of which Cyprus laid claim to around 300.

The estimated worth at the time of all of the items found was more than $40mln

The antiquities were found hidden behind fake walls and under the floors in two apartments Dikmen occupied. In addition to the frescoes and icons, Bavarian police also found statues, terracotta pots and coins.

In September 2010 a German court ordered the return of a large number of the artefacts ruling that the Church had succeeded in proving provenance for each item.

Dikmen appealed but just over two years later in March 2013, the appeals court ruled that part of the stolen religious artefacts should be returned to Cyprus.



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