Repatriation Agreement: 60 Cypriot Antiquities to Return Home

feature monuments main picture Some of the artefacts seized in the apartments of Aydin Dikmen

Sixty Cypriot antiquities, looted after the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974, are to be returned following the signing of an agreement between Cyprus and German authorities, announced on Tuesday.

The Historic Repatriation Agreement, signed in Munich, marks the final chapter of the Aydin Dikmen case involving the smuggling of antiquities. It paves the way for the repatriation of 24 ecclesiastical relics and 36 prehistoric and other antiquities after June 20.

Ο επίλογος της υπόθεσης αρχαιοκαπηλίας του τούρκου A. Dikmen στο Μόναχο.

The Church of Cyprus hailed the day as historic and joyful, marking the culmination of 27 years of efforts and legal battles. Turkish antiquities smuggler Dikmen, aided by the occupation regime and accomplices, was responsible for the removal of over 50 Greek Orthodox, Maronite, and Armenian Christian monuments, as well as antiquities from occupied archaeological sites and private collections.

Among the thousands of objects seized from Dikmen’s antiquities smuggling operation in March 1997 were 318 relics of Cypriot origin, including mosaics from the 6th century, frescoes spanning the 8th to 15th centuries, icons, doors, manuscripts, and various prehistoric artefacts.

The legal battle began in 2004 and was resolved in 2010 with the decision of the Munich District Court. However, Dikmen’s subsequent appeal to the Court of Appeal led to the partial repatriation of 173 relics in July 2013 and another 85 in August 2015.

The final act of the Dikmen case unfolded with the signing of the repatriation agreement and the restoration of cultural heritage to its rightful place.

The Church thanked all those who contributed to the successful conclusion of the case, including representatives of the Munich police, the General Prosecutor’s Office, and the city's Judicial Authorities. Additionally, recognition was extended to representatives of the Republic of Cyprus, including officials from the legal service, the police, and the Department of Antiquities.

Special acknowledgement was reserved for experts instrumental in identifying the objects, such as Dr Johannes Deckers and Dr Katerina Hadjistylli, along with individuals like Tasoula Hadjitofi, former Consul of the Republic of Cyprus in The Hague, the late Byzantinologist Athanasios Papageorgiou, and Cyprus’ lawyer in the case, Enno Engbers.

According to the Director of the Office for Combating Illegal Possession and Trafficking of Antiquities, Michalis Gavrielidis, over 16,000 Christian icons, mosaics, and murals dating from the 6th and 5th centuries have been forcibly stolen and sold abroad since the Turkish invasion in 1974.

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