Egypt orders trial for Italian ex-honorary consul charged with smuggling artefacts

Antiquities theft flourished in Egypt in the years after the country’s 2011 uprising. (File photo:AFP)
Updated 17 September 2019

Egypt orders trial for Italian ex-honorary consul charged with smuggling artefacts

  • Skakal, Italy’s former honorary consul in Luxor, attempted to smuggle 21,855 artefacts from various historical periods
  • Egyptian authorities also found many artefacts at the Italian’s former home in Cairo and inside a safe he rented

CAIRO: Egypt has ordered Italy’s former honorary consul to stand trial in absentia over charges of attempting to smuggle thousands of artefacts out of the country, the public prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.
Ladislav Otakar Skakal, Italy’s former honorary consul in Luxor, attempted last year to smuggle 21,855 artefacts from various historical periods in a diplomatic container from Alexandria to the Italian port of Salerno, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
It said Egyptian authorities also found many artefacts at the Italian’s former home in Cairo and inside a safe he rented at a private bank.
Artefacts he allegedly attempted to smuggle went on display at the Egyptian museum in Cairo last year.
It was not immediately possible to contact Skakal. A call to a phone number in Rome listed under his name in an online directory went unanswered.
The public prosecutor also ordered some Egyptians accused of helping Skakal to stand trial. The statement did not name the suspects but said they had been detained.
Egypt has also asked Interpol to issue a red notice against Skakal, the statement added. A red notice requests law enforcement agencies to provisionally arrest a suspect pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.
Antiquities theft flourished in Egypt in the years after the country’s 2011 uprising, with relics stolen from museums, mosques, storage facilities and illegal excavations.


British journalist details lengthy Iranian detention

Updated 1 min 16 sec ago

British journalist details lengthy Iranian detention

LONDON: Nicholas Pelham, The Economist’s Middle East correspondent, was paying his bill at a Tehran hotel in July 2019 when he was detained.

Pelham — who had acquired a rare journalist’s visa to Iran after three years of applying — had arrived in the country during a period of heightened tensions between Tehran and London.

An Iranian judge gave authority for him to be detained and questioned for 48 hours, but Pelham could not leave Iran for seven weeks.

He was kept under strict limitations after Iran seized a British-linked oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, which prompted a dramatic escalation in regional tensions. 

Pelham said his trip before the detention was unsuccessful. None of the interview requests that he submitted were cleared, despite him being given press accreditation.

“Iran is pretty much unique in that it not only provides a minder who is supposed to be with you 24 hours a day, but you also have to pay for the privilege for his presence,” he told The Economist Asks podcast, which was published on Tuesday. 

“This is a minder who isn’t just there to make sure that you don’t slip up, but also to make sure that anyone you interview doesn’t slip up. They make it clear to any interlocutor that they’re vetting conversations.”

Pelham said the men who detained him checked his phones, laptop and notebooks. He told the podcast that he was reunited with his belongings at the airport, but was then taken into a separate room away from the departures lounge and was introduced to a man called “the doctor,” who revealed himself to be his interrogator for the next two and a half weeks. 

After the conclusion of his interrogation, he was blindfolded and driven out of the airport, where he was taken to an office for another round of questioning. He was later freed, but was not allowed to leave the country.

Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper on Wednesday described Pelham’s detention as “a worrying development in Tehran’s strategy of hostage-taking.”