Monday 2 April 2012

Former Minister Zahi Hawass Faces Charges Over US Museum Loans

In Egypt, Zahi Hawass, the former minister of state for antiquities reportedly now faces charges of "breaking Egypt's [1983] antiquities law" when he agreed to display Egyptian objects in Australia and the US (Anon. 'Egypt's 'Indiana Jones' faces charges', Ahram Online, Monday 2 Apr 2012). Nour El-Din Abdul-Samad, Director of Archeological Sites, has filed the accusations against Hawass, and requested that the objects in question be returned to the Egyptian Museum. Hawass is accused of "sealing a deal with the American Geographical Society to display rare Egyptian antiquities in exhibitions across the United States and Australia, violating the law of protecting antiquities".
General Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud on Monday referred charges of wasting public money and stealing Egyptian antiquities against Zahi Hawass, former minister of state for antiquities to the Public Fund Prosecution office. [...] The Public Funds Prosecution office also received other charges accusing Hawass of wasting public money and exposing Egyptian antiquities to stealing in collaboration with former regime members. [...] The charges relate to Hawass agreeing to transfer and display 143 objects from the Egyptian Museum to Washington DC in 2003. The antiquities have yet to be returned to the museum. These exhibitions violate the antiquities law that prohibits renting Egypt's heritage.
Loans of antiquities to museums and foreign exhibitions violate antiquities laws? The money received for the Tutankhamun exhibition was to raise donations for a hospital patronised by Suzanne Mubarak which was (is?) "a private association not a state body, and as such Hawass was not legally allowed to use his position as a state minister to raise funds for it". Probably the law says the money should have gone to the Mubarak budget to buy more rubber bullets and tear gas.

We have heard from Nour el din Abdel Samad before, he's the one who thinks the National Geographic is a "Zionist" organization and on those grounds the Americans should never have been allowed on Egyptian soil ("What he is saying that the Israelis are involved in trying to change the history of Egypt to suit their needs, so that in the future they can get public opinion (worldwide) on their side when they decide to take back their promised land").  I suspect he is one of those who Hawass referred to previously as a "son of Seth". We will see how these charges hold up.

So, here we have another reason why one should avoid loaning objects to US museums.

UPDATE 3rd April 2012:
An odd, and significant, footnote: 'Judiciary denies probing Mubarak over Hawass charges' (note also both Al-Ahram articles are unsigned, though most can guess the name of the person who was charged with writing them):
On Monday the prosecution opened an investigation into Hawass, who faces seven charges filed against him by a number of archaeologists, including the editor-in-chief of a literary magazine. In a Monday meeting with Ali El-Hawari, a lawyer from the Public Funds Prosecution Office, Hawass presented a number of documents outlining the inaccuracy of the charges filed against him, reported the Al-Ahram Arabic website. El-Hawari ordered the formation of a committee made up of a number of experts from the judiciary and the antiquities field to study all the documents presented both by Hawass and the regulatory authorities.
Vignette: Poland lent this painting to the London Leonardo exhibition, sadly, conservators report when it came back, it has some new micro-cracks in it. But nobody is going to jail.


Dorothy King said...

I'm not going to pretend to be a fan of Zahi Hawass, but this seems to be a witch hunt ... If Egypt uses it's cultural heritage to promote itself, surely loans act as cultural ambassadors - and since the museums were making money off the exhibitions, why shouldn't a charity benefit?

Dorothy King said...

And re the Czartoryski Leonardo - I was shocked to see it's condition in the NG Leonardo exhibition in London, but frankly that was better than the bad restoration which ruined several other Leonardos in the show.

The early 90s loan of Lady with Ermine to the National Gallery in DC also led to a change in US law - it was "owned" by the then Communist Government, who were worried that Adam Czartoryski would claim it in the US. US law was amended so that items on loan owned by foreign governments (including state museums) could not be seized or the subject of restitution law suits.

Although I pointed out that it was double standards by the Greeks, it's why this El Greco with good documentation to support it having been looted by Nazis, was returned to Heraklion

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