INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FORCULTURAL PROPERTY PROTECTION
Reposted from the Guardian
A teenage girl plotted to launch a gun and grenade attack on the British Museum after her attempts to become a jihadi bride were thwarted, a court heard.
Safaa Boular was 17 when she allegedly decided to become a “martyr” after her fiance, an Islamic State militant, was killed in Syria.
She was so determined to attack London that she enlisted the help of her older sister after she was charged with planning to go to Syria, the Old Bailey heard on Thursday.
Rizlaine Boular, 21, had already admitted planning an attack in Westminster, that was allegedly to involve knives, with the alleged help of their mother, Mina Dich, 43, the jury was told.
Duncan Atkinson QC, prosecuting, told how Safaa Boular’s alleged plotting followed a failed attempt to marry the Isis member Naweed Hussain.
The couple declared their love for each other in August 2016, after three months of chatting on social media, the court heard.
Atkinson told jurors Boular wanted to join Hussain in Syria where they would carry out an attack. He said: “Their plan then was that together they would, as Hussain put it, depart the world holding hands and taking others with them in an act of terrorism.”
The court heard Rizlaine Boular had also tried to go to Syria two years before.
After Safaa Boular’s plan was uncovered, she allegedly switched her attention to Britain, keeping contact with Hussain through the encrypted messaging service Telegram.
The security services deployed specially trained officers to engage in online communication with them, jurors heard.
Atkinson said: “It was clear that Hussain had been planning an act of terrorism with Safaa Boular in which she could engage if she remained in this country. Both Hussain and Safaa Boular talked of a planned ambush involving grenades and/or firearms.”
She also told an officer posing as an Isis militant that all she needed was a “car and a knife to get what I want to achieve”, the court heard.
Atkinson said: “Based on her preparation and discussion, it appears she planned to launch an attack against members of the public selected largely at random in the environs of that cultural jewel and most popular of tourist attractions, the British Museum in central London.”
An attack would have caused at least widespread panic and was intended to cause injury and death, the court was told.
When she learned Hussain had been killed in April 2017, Boular’s determination was strengthened, the court heard. She was allegedly encouraged by her mother and sister to become a “martyr”.
But within days, she was charged with planning to go to Syria and was unable to carry out her “chilling intentions”, Atkinson told the court.
He said: “However, that those intentions were not just chilling but sincere and determined is demonstrated by the fact that she did not abandon them even when she was unable to put them into effect herself. Rather, she sought to encourage her sister Rizlaine to carry the torch forward in her stead.”
Atkinson told jurors that Rizlaine Boular, of Clerkenwell, central London, had admitted preparing acts of terrorism, which was apparently to be a knife attack in Westminster.
Safaa Boular, now 18, who lived at home with her mother in Vauxhall, south-west London, denies two counts of preparing acts of terrorism.
The trial continues.
See Original Post
Reposted from The Art Newspaper
A new body dedicated exclusively to resolving art disputes, the Court of Arbitration for Art (CAA), will be formally launched 7 June in the Hague by the Netherlands Arbitration Institute (NAI) and the nonprofit Authentication in Art. Instead of being decided by judges and juries, cases will be heard by arbitrators who are seasoned lawyers familiar with industry practice and issues specific to art disputes. Scientific and provenance experts, who are often essential to proving authenticity and title to an artwork, will be appointed by the court rather than hired by the disputing parties. Authenticity, fraud, copyright, stolen art, and contract disputes are all within the court’s purview.
The tribunal’s main goal, says its founder, the art lawyer William Charron of the New York firm Pryor Cashman, is to produce accurate decisions the market will accept. “Courts are reactive bodies. They don’t go out and independently try to search for the truth on their own. They take the evidence that is presented by the parties and they do the best they can”, Charron says. “The thinking with CAA is, if you have art practitioners as the deciders, they’re going to be better positioned to evaluate the evidence.”
Another goal is to save time and money, as art lawsuits are often hampered by delays. “There is a steep learning curve for judges” to become familiar with the issues in art cases, and “a final decision comes after a long time”, Charron says. The lawyer Luke Nikas, a member of the working group Charron assembled, observed during his involvement in the Knoedler art forgery lawsuits that “extensive resources and court time was devoted to whether scientific testing was sufficient”. But on the flip side, Nikas says, when experts' testimony is introduced in court by the parties, “there’s a concern they are biased…[CAA] experts are responsible to the objective of truth. Their loyalty is to the arbitration panel,” not the client that hired them.
The CAA’s arbitrators and experts will be selected from a pool approved by the NAI, which is providing administrative support. The cost will depend on the number of panelists needed, on top of the NAI’s standard rates. CAA decisions shall be legally binding under international arbitration enforcement rules, such as the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.
Although the CAA is based in the Hague, proceedings may be held anywhere in the world. They will be conducted in private, but at the end of a case, the arbitrators will issue a written decision explaining how they reached their conclusions. The decision will not disclose the names of the parties but will identify the work of art. “In the art market, people prize their anonymity”, says Charron, “but we were also concerned with… creating a decision-making apparatus that the market is going to respect.”
Some aspects of the CAA may prove controversial. For example, under the new court’s rules, restitution claims brought long after a work has been taken may be barred where they have not been “pursued with reasonable diligence… or where evidence has been lost due to the long passage of time”. This may conflict with the statute of limitations to recover Nazi-looted art under the US Hear Act or with laws applied in cultural heritage cases. Unless the parties agree that these other laws apply, the court’s rules kick in, says Charron. (The Hear Act could still be invoked in arguments.)
Charron and his working group—which includes Nikas, Megan Noh from Cahill Cossu Noh & Robinson LLP; and Judith Prowda from Stropheus Art Law and the Sotheby’s Institute of Art—are trying to educate the market about the new court, speaking with auction houses, catalogue raisonné producers and others whose contracts specify how disputes will be resolved. “The real issue is getting people to accept something that’s new”, says Nikas.
Reposted from National Geographic
Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is known as a "palace turned inside out" because of its beautiful courtyard. In 1990, the Gardner was robbed of 13 paintings worth a collective $500 million, the largest property theft in history.
An empty frame marks the spot where Rembrandt's "The Storm on the Sea of Galilee" once hung in the Gardner. Vermeer's "The Concert," another painting stolen in the 1990 heist, is the world's most expensive missing work of art, valued at over $200 million.
The Louvre's main entrance is illuminated at night. The world's biggest art museum, the Louvre was robbed in 1911 when museum security was much more lax.
Arguably the world's most famous work of art, the ”Mona Lisa” is now displayed behind thick plexiglass and a wooden barrier to protect it from the 15,000 visitors who flock to the Louvre each day.
Named for a former Prime Minister of Egypt, the Mohammed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo, Egypt—notable for its collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works—was robbed in 1978 and 2010.
Post-Impressionist Vincent van Gogh's ”Poppy Flowers,” also known as ”Vase and Flowers,” was stolen twice from the Mohammed Mahmoud Khalil Museum. Worth at least $50 million, it remains missing.
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was, in 1972, the site of the ”Skylight Caper:” Armed thieves rappelled through a skylight and made off with $2 million worth of paintings and jewelry.
The MMFA's then-Director of Public Relations examines photos of the 18 paintings stolen in the 1972 heist. Due to the dramatic method of entry, police suspected the thieves were experienced members of an international crime ring.
Vienna's Fälschermuseum (in English, the Museum of Art Fakes) displays forgeries of famous masterworks.
”The Procuress,” believed to be a forgery by Han van Meegeren, is one of the famous phonies on the walls of the Museum of Art Fakes.
The depth of a da Vinci. The luminance of a Vermeer. The vibrancy of a van Gogh. They’ve shaped the canon of Western art—and they’ve all been the center of sensational art thefts.
Though high-profile heists may seem the stuff of movies, art crime is actually a multi-billion-dollar business that often doubles as a money laundering front for international terrorist or organized crime groups.
To get a taste of the drama without the danger, visit these world-class museums that have been the site of art heists—some still unsolved.
It might be hard to imagine a time before the Mona Lisa smiled enigmatically from a million souvenir mugs and pop culture references, but Leonardo da Vinci’s 16th century masterpiece wasn’t always quite so famous. In fact, its 1911 theft from Paris’s Louvre Museum—and the well-publicized search that ensued—is largely responsible for its current notoriety.
The Louvre had hired handyman Vincenzo Peruggia to install protective glass cases over paintings including the Mona Lisa. Instead, he hid overnight in a closet and walked out of the door the next morning with the stolen painting under his smock. Despite being interviewed twice by police during the course of their investigation, Peruggia was not caught until 1913, when he tried to sell the painting to a Florentine art dealer.
Today, the Mona Lisa is a main attraction at the world’s largest and most visited art museum. About 15,000 people visit the Louvre each day, so plan ahead. The museum recommends booking tickets in advance (though admission is free on the first Sunday of every month from October through March). If you’re looking to spot the Mona Lisa or other famous works, consider arriving before the museum opens to get a good spot in line—or choose to spend your time exploring the many amazing works that often go overlooked.
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has twice been robbed. In September 2011, and again in October, an unidentified thief stole two small stone sculptures which had been displayed without protective cases. One, a 2,500-year-old sandstone carving, was worth around $1 million—and turned up two years later in the home of an unsuspecting yoga instructor, who had bought it for $1,000. The other sculpture remains missing.
But the more dramatic of the two crimes was a 1972 midnight heist in which three armed robbers rappelled through a skylight, overpowered and tied up three guards, then made off on foot with 50 artworks, among them 18 renowned paintings.
The ensuing investigation—full of cryptic pay-phone messages, suspected ties to terrorists and organized crime, and a failed $10,000 ransom—is still unsolved. The “Skylight Caper” is Canada’s largest art theft: Initial losses were estimated at $2 million, though some art historians have estimated that the stolen paintings, including a Rembrandt, have since appreciated in value.
Despite the absence of its most famous items, the MMFA retains a collection of nearly 50,000 works. Located in Montreal’s historic downtown, the striking building doesn’t have a parking lot, so consider taking advantage of nearby public transportation.
Cairo’s Mohammed Mahmoud Khalil Museum is another victim of double thefts—but in this case, of the same painting, a single-square-foot still life of poppy flowers painted by Vincent van Gogh.
The work was first stolen in 1978, but was found two years later in Kuwait (though details of the case remain scarce). In 2010, the painting was cut from its frame, and though Egyptian officials erroneously announced its recovery hours later, the $50 million ”Poppy Flowers” remains missing. An inspection of the museum revealed that only seven security cameras and none of the fifty alarms were working, and 11 culture ministry employees were found guilty of negligence.
One of Egypt’s best museums, the Mohammed Mahmoud Khalil Museum’s collection includes works by Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists such as Auguste Renoir and Paul Gaugin. Round out any trip to Cairo with a visit to the museum, located on the banks of the Nile River a half hour’s drive from the Great Pyramids of Giza.
The 1990 Gardner Museum robbery is the granddaddy of the bunch. The 13 stolen works, including pieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas, and Manet, are worth a combined half billion dollars, making it the single largest property theft in history.
At 1:24 in the morning on March 18, two men disguised as police officers—one with a wax moustache—buzzed at the door of the celebrated Boston museum, claiming they were responding to a disturbance. Once the security guard let them in, they handcuffed him and the other officer on duty. They spent the next 81 minutes collecting their loot, even making two trips to the car.
Though still being actively investigated, the case is unsolved—and no less dramatic than the original theft. After 38 years of disappearing evidence, ransom letters, coded messages in The Boston Globe, and midnight trips to warehouses have turned up no sign of the missing works, the reward for information leading to all the paintings’ safe return has been raised to $10 million.
To mark the paintings’ absence—and await their hopeful return—the Gardner still displays the empty frames, a favorite shot for Instagramming visitors. Its world-renowned collection of historic and contemporary art is housed in a beautiful mansion in Boston’s Back Bay, and its delightfully active Twitter feed shares information about programs and performances.
Vienna’s Fälschermuseum has never been the scene of a crime. But on its walls hang works that, with the slightest change in attribution, would be crimes themselves.
Opened in 2005 to celebrate the odd history of forgery (and educate the public on how fraud can be stopped), the Museum of Art Fakes houses over 80 works by famous forgers like Han van Meegeren, whose imitation of Vermeer was once considered one of the Dutch master’s greatest pieces. Rembrandt, Picasso, and Matisse are some of the other heavyweights whose works inspired the imitations found here. (Learn how forgeries may be hiding in the Museum of the Bible.)
Visitors to the tiny museum can try to spot telltale signs and “time bombs,” clues that a work isn’t what it seems. Just blocks from the Danube River, the museum can be found near the Hundertwasser House, an architectural oddity popular with tourists.
This forged Mark Rothko painting was part of an art dealer's 15-year scam that fooled collectors into buying more than $60 million of counterfeit paintings attributed to Rothko and others.
In June 2013, German police broke up a multimillion-dollar international forgery ring producing bogus works attributed to Russian avant-garde artists like Vasily Kandinsky.
Dutch master forger Han van Meegeren's forgery of Vermeer's The Last Supper hangs on display at the De Kunsthal gallery in Rotterdam, surrounded by other faux Vermeers.
In 2002, the Greenhalghs, a family of art forgers, convinced the Bolton Museum to buy this faked statue of an Egyptian princess for nearly $600,000.
Born in 1906, Elmyr de Hory was a Hungarian-born painter and art forger who is said to have sold more than a thousand forgeries to reputable art galleries all over the world. de Hory died in 1976.
Reposted from Security Intelligence
Inherent to any conversation about cyber awareness training is the reality that organizations need to change their cultures, which can’t happen without strong leadership. As we’ve seen with mobile security strategies, though, business efficiency and productivity too often trump security.
The very idea that organizations need to change their corporate cultures to truly make security awareness part of their profit and loss statements might be too Pollyanna for some. The goal might be lofty, but it doesn’t have to be, and the change doesn’t need to happen overnight. After all, it’s better to take smaller steps toward slow change than to do nothing and fall victim to cyberthreats.
Promoting Cyber Awareness From the Top Down
When security awareness and training mandates don’t come from the top, there is very little potential for change. Creating a cyber-aware culture also demands a shift in the way organizations treat security. The role of the chief information security officer (CISO) is evolving, and while some are making headway toward becoming influencers at the top level, many CISOs don’t feel respected within their organization. Cybersecurity is still largely seen as part of IT rather than a profession in itself.
All the while, phishing remains a popular method of gaining initial access among cybercriminals, and 49 percent of companies that have already suffered a significant attack are targeted again within a year. Enterprises can no longer kick the can down the road and accept “good enough” as a viable solution to mitigating the risks of human error.
Many organizations understand the risks associated with the human factor but lack the time, staff or other resources to fully understand what a cyber-aware workforce means to the organization. But when it comes to creating a culture of security awareness, there are no stupid questions.
Here’s one to ponder: Why do 65 percent of CISOs spend sleepless nights worrying about phishing scams, and why do 61 percent fear disruption to processes caused by malware? It’s likely because they know that human beings represent the weakest link in their security chains.
Another question to consider: Would CISOs worry less if they felt confident that their organizations were cyber aware? Building a culture of security is not a Pollyanna dream — especially if it is supported from the top down.
Let’s face it: Any human being within any organization could fall victim to a scam. If you think you are exempt from that because you are the CEO, I’d advise you to leave your ego at the door. Phishing scams don’t discriminate, and the security of your organization is not about you or how clever you are — it’s about risk.
That’s why building a cyber-aware culture begins with risk management. According to Reg Harnish, CEO of GrayCastle Security, “A successful cybersecurity culture cannot exist without first identifying your organization’s risk tolerance.” Once you understand which systems need protection, you can make informed decisions about how to secure enterprise data and set expectations about employee behavior.
Do’s and Don’ts for Changing Corporate Culture
Changing a corporate culture is not the same as security awareness training. Awareness training is a critical part of creating a cyber-aware culture, but it is only one piece of the fiber that defines an organization. Culture is more broadly defined by its social norms. Security leaders should keep the following do’s and don’ts in mind when endeavoring to change employee behavior.
Do Expect Mistakes
Because employees are a critical line of defense when it comes to protecting against cyberattacks, it’s important to value them as much as you do any other security tool. Recognizing that no defense is foolproof, security leaders should also prepare for the inevitability of human error, regardless of how well employees are trained.
Don’t Punish Errors
When users are blamed for, reprimanded or even fired for their mistakes, they are far less likely to report incidents when they occur. Why on earth would you approach the security team to confess that you accidentally clicked a malicious link when you could be fired? You wouldn’t.
Do Build Morale
A more effective approach is to make employees feel like partners so that they know where threats are coming from and can work collaboratively to help each other avoid security incidents.
Do Not Rely on Annual Training
The standards of teaching and learning that apply in the classroom don’t change when adults become part of the workforce. If the goal is to educate, the training needs to be multifaceted, ongoing and consistent. Use alternative assessments to determine the effectiveness of the training programs you are using. If you don’t see progress, try something new.
Do Set Achievable, Companywide Security Goals
The key is to start small. A measurable goal might be to reduce the number of employees who click on a malicious link during a simulated phishing attack. When setting goals, ensure that they can be tied back to the employees. Connect the security of the organization to their own personal privacy. To convince employees to change their behaviors, security leaders must first help them understand how their actions impact the security of the organization.
A Culture of Cyber Awareness Is Attainable
When security leaders set reasonable, incremental goals and demonstrate a willingness to try new training methods when traditional approaches fail to yield results, creating a culture of cyber awareness doesn’t have to be a pipe dream. In fact, it’s an absolute necessity given the volatility and increasing sophistication of the threat landscape. Cybercriminals are masters of manipulating human nature to convince employees to do their nefarious bidding. It’s time for security leaders to better understand the human element of cybersecurity and use these insights to protect their employees and enterprise data.
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Reposted from The Washington Post
Italy’s art police say they’ve recovered three paintings stolen in recent months from three small Bologna-area museums after identifying the thief from surveillance videos.
The most well-known piece was a 1363 portrait of St. Ambrose attributed to Giusto de’ Menabuoi that was stolen in March from the National Pinacoteca of Bologna while it was open to the public.
In a statement Friday, the carabinieri art squad said investigators were able to zero in on the thief using surveillance videos from the museums, and tracked him down when he acted “suspiciously” near another Bologna museum.
They then searched his apartment and found the looted works.
Reposted from Money Magazine
Another day, another online security scandal — it now just seems like a natural part of life in 2018. But this time, you really need to take immediate action.
Twitter’s chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal, revealed in a Thursday blog post that a bug in its system caused people’s passwords to be kept unmasked in an internal log. And though the social media company swears it has “no reason to believe password information ever left Twitter’s systems or was misused by anyone,” it’s recommending that all 336 million users change their passwords immediately.
But here’s the kicker: Twitter isn’t just saying you should update your password on Twitter. It’s suggesting you also change your password on all sites where you used your Twitter password.
As soon as possible, you should to go Twitter.com and mouse over to your avatar in the upper right-hand corner. Click it, navigate to “Settings and privacy” on the drop-down menu, and click “Password” on the left. Then change your information. Make sure you pick a good password — one that’s hard to guess, longer than eight characters, relatively random, has upper and lowercase letters, and contains numbers and symbols, according to USA Today.
Now, repeat this process on the other sites where you used your old Twitter password. This should be obvious, but don’t reuse the new password you just created — invent a new one entirely, or at least throw in a variation.
If you want to take your security to the next level — and you probably should — you may want to look into enabling two-factor authentication for your sensitive accounts. Also called two-step authentication, it is what is sounds like: A system that uses multiple methods, like texting you a log-in code, to confirm your identity before allowing you access to your account.
Perhaps the best way to protect your info, though, is to start relying on a password manager. It’s a type of software that generates ultra-secure passwords and keeps track of them for you in one safe place. The Verge says the best brands are LastPass, Dashlane and 1Password, all of which you can try for free. Once you find one you like, you can upgrade to a paid subscription. Those will run you less than $5 a month, which is a a small price to pay for privacy.
Then all you have to do is make sure your password manager password is really good. Ah, the circle of (modern) life.
Reposted from Ahram Online
Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany escorted members of the media on a tour of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) in Giza to show that the fire that broke out at the museum last week did little damage to the museum.
The visit included a tour of the museum buildings as well as the display of the King Ramses II colossus and artefacts at the GEM’s conservation centre.
Last Sunday, a minor fire broke out on the wooden scaffolding on the museum’s rear façade.
No one was harmed and no artefacts were damaged in the fire.
One hour after the fire broke out, the museum’s fire station, with aid from Civilian Security fire trucks, succeeded in extinguishing the flames, Mostafa Waziri Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities said at the time.
An investigation has been launched to determine the cause of the blaze. The GEM is currently under construction, with scaffolding positioned outside several buildings.
The museum is being built to house antiquities from ancient Egypt, including many items currently held at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo's Tahrir Square. A partial opening is planned for later this year.
Reposted from Somersetlive
The Museum of East Asian Art's 25th anniversary celebrations are back on track after 'priceless' artefacts were stolen by masked thieves. The Bath museum was shut for more than two weeks after the break-in and is now due to reopen on Thursday (May 3).
Police have yet to make an arrest in connection with the heist, which saw 'beautiful pieces with historical and cultural value' stolen. The crime, believed to have been planned, was even more devastating due to it coinciding with the Bennett Street museum's quarter centennary.
However, celebrations can now go ahead with the opening of A Quest for Wellness, the first UK exhibition by the artist Zhang Yanzi of Hong Kong-based Galerie Ora-Ora, at the museum in Bennett Street.
Wellness as a theme will tie in with Bath's origins as a Roman spa town, organisers said: "In this exhibition, the artist explores common frailties and shared humanity, investigating the nature and meaning of wellness in China: its history, and its modern counterpoints from a Chinese perspective."
Works on display will include:
Reposted from the New York Times
The line of people snaked around the blue tablecloth, as government officials and archaeology scholars paused to admire the ancient clay tablets and seals lined in rows.
Here, in the backyard of the Iraqi ambassador’s home on Wednesday, was closure for these artifacts: a ceremonial transfer back to Iraq, where they had been looted from archaeological sites. Their coming return there will complete a long, circuitous voyage through Israel and the United Arab Emirates to Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts chain, and eventually into the hands of the United States government.
The samples carefully lined on the table were just a small fraction of the thousands of smuggled artifacts that Immigration and Customs Enforcement formally returned on Wednesday.
“To have them in my residence is to underline that they’re coming home,” said Fareed Yasseen, the Iraqi ambassador to the United States, speaking after he and Thomas D. Homan, the acting director of ICE, signed the ceremonial transfer. “We really have a sense of kinship to these artifacts.”
The artifacts, which are from the second and third millennium B.C., will eventually be taken to the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad to be studied and displayed. Several tablets are from the ancient city of Irisagrig and date to between 2100 and 1600 B.C.
Hobby Lobby, which is owned by evangelical Christians known for their interest in the biblical Middle East, originally bought the collection from an unnamed dealer for $1.6 million in December 2010. The purchase, prosecutors later said, was completed despite being “fraught with red flags,” including warnings from an expert on cultural property law hired by the company that the artifacts were possibly taken from archaeological sites in Iraq.
“Stealing a nation’s cultural property and antiquities is one of the oldest forms of organized transnational crime,” said Mr. Homan, who will soon retire from the agency. He said more than 1,200 items had been returned to Iraq since 2008.
The collection included cuneiform tablets, ancient clay tablets that probably served as administrative and legal documentation in ancient Mesopotamia, and clay bullae, seal impressions about the size of a coin that served as signatures and proof that an item had not been tampered with. More than a dozen packages were shipped from Israel and the United Arab Emirates in early 2011 under the guise of tile samples to Hobby Lobby and two corporate affiliates. Customs and Border Protection intercepted a few of them.
In July, the federal government brought a civil complaint against Hobby Lobby, which agreed to forfeit the items. The company also agreed to a $3 million fine, to hire qualified outside customs counsel and to submit quarterly reports on any cultural property acquisitions for 18 months.
“These artifacts are part of Iraq’s illustrious heritage and history,” said Richard P. Donoghue, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, “and we’re proud of our role in removing them from the black market in antiquities and returning them to their rightful owners.”
Hobby Lobby is known for its efforts to cultivate evangelical Christianity, including its owners’ heavy financial investment in the Museum of the Bible, which opened in Washington late last year. In 2014, it was involved in the landmark Supreme Court case that found that family-owned corporations could claim religious exemptions to the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to pay for contraception coverage.
Hobby Lobby did not respond to requests for comment about the return of the artifacts. But at the time of the forfeiture in July, Steve Green, the company’s president, said the company was “new to the world of acquiring these items, and did not fully appreciate the complexities of the acquisitions process.”
Many of the officials mingling in the ambassador’s backyard with glasses of apple cider and hors d’oeuvres had been involved in the seizure and the return of the artifacts. Others were archaeologists and Middle East scholars who had come forward in support of the items’ return, collectively admiring the condition and the intricacy of the designs on the seals. They pointed to favorites: the seal with the dancing animals, the etching of what appeared to be a god or a king on a throne.
“Stunning,” one woman whispered, her hands clasped over her chest as she leaned over to get a closer look at the clay cylinders resting in indigo velvet. An archaeologist reached out to carefully straighten one small tablet in line with the others.
“This is a piece of you,” said Safaa Yaseen, the third secretary for the embassy, who helped unpack the artifacts in the ambassador’s residence. “It’s an indescribable feeling.”
The demand for stolen antiquities “always seems to be there,” said Katharyn Hanson, the executive director of the Academic Research Institute in Iraq. “It’s really nice to have these moments.”
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