Court to Rule on Turkish Dealer’s Collection of Looted Artifacts
MUNICH, Germany (Cyprus Mail)—A German court is set to issue a final decision on the fate of 85 artifacts stolen from Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus, including fragments of painted church walls, an Armenian gospel manuscript, and some 40 prehistoric antiques, the Cyprus Mail reports.
The Court of Appeal of Munich is expected to issue its final decision in relation to some of those items found in the possession of a Turkish dealer, Aydin Dikmen. A total of 173 stolen artifacts found in Αydin Dikmen`s posession in Munich were repatriated to Cyprus last October.
On Wednesday, a hearing took place in the Court of Appeal in Munich, where the German judge proposed an out of court settlement by the 13th of February, 2015; otherwise, the Court will issue its final decision by March 16, 2015.
Bishop Porphyrios of Neapolis said that the Church of Cyprus and the Law Office of the Republic of Cyprus will try to reach an amicable settlement with the other party provided that “the settlement is reasonable and will allow the repatriation of all Cypriot treasures”.
Turkish art smuggler Aydin Dikmen had his headquarters in Munich and channeled the loot taken from the occupied areas through Turkey to the rest of the world. One of the biggest cases of illicit trading in antiquities involving Aydin Dikmen was the plundering of the wall paintings from the church of Agios Euphemianus and the 6th century wall mosaics from the Church of Panagia Kanakaria in the occupied areas of Cyprus.
In October and November 1997 the German Police raided apartments maintained by the Turkish dealer in Munich. The number of works of art they uncovered was astonishing: treasures were found from about fifty looted churches in Turkish-occupied Cyprus.
The records kept by the Turkish illicit dealer in antiquities have been lodged as exhibits at the Bavarian Court. The detailed way in which he kept his records is unprecedented: photographs and sketches prior to the theft of the mosaics and wall paintings, during their removal and after, as well as copies of the mosaics intended to be sold as originals in the illicit antiques trade.
The uncontrolled situation in the Turkish-occupied area of Cyprus after the Turkish invasion in 1974 has fostered the development of a network of dealers in illicit antiquities whose aim was to sell out the cultural heritage of Cyprus. With the encouragement and help of the Turkish army, the trade in illicit antiquities has brought great profit to those involved, and Cypriot treasures already adorn private collections in a number of countries including Turkey, Russia, Switzerland, Holland and the UK, and even as far as the US, Australia and Japan.
More than 500 churches situated in the areas under Turkish occupation since 1974 have been destroyed, plundered and looted or turned into stables, warehouses, restaurants and hotels. For this the Cyprus government and church have repeatedly protested to the UN, the World Council of Churches, and many other international and religious organizations.