Friday, January 22, 2010

Repatriation: Antiquities protection draft law continues to ignite debates (Safaa Abdoun)

Protection of Egypt's antiquities was the subject of heated debate at the People's Assembly as steel mogul and senior National Democratic Party MP Ahmed Ezz and Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni argued over private ownership of antiquities.

The point of contention was Article 8, which bans the trade, or any other form of disposal, of antiquities unless there is a written consent from the Supreme Council for Antiquities (SCA). It also states that the council has the right to take the antiquity from the owner and offer a reasonable compensation.

Ezz argued that the majority of Egyptians don't know the characteristics of an antiquity and some people inherit an antiquity unknowingly, and so penalizing them would be unfair.

However, Hosni, who cancelled a trip to Luxor to attend the draft law's discussion at the PA, said there are set criteria for identifying antiquities and such owners should report these inherited pieces to the SCA.

Minster of State for Legal Affairs and Parliamentary Councils, Mofid Shehab, proposed to add a clause to the articles which states that anyone in possession of an antiquity has to notify the council within a year of the law coming into force.

Parliament Speaker Ahmed Fathi Sorour said that the crime of owning an antiquity is only punishable if the owner knows that it is an antiquity and doesn't report it, and he postponed the discussion of this article until the entire law is discussed.

Independent MP Alaa Abdel Meniem says that the law needs more work especially in defining what constitutes an antiquity.

Al-Masry Al-Youm (Nehal Mostafa)

A controversy erupted in parliament this week when MP Ahmed Ezz, who is also a leading member of the ruling National Democratic Party, suggested an amendment that would legalize trade in antiquities. Ezz's suggestion was promptly shot down by other members of parliament and Zahi Hawass, the chairman of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Al-Masry Al-Youm hit the streets to find out what the average Egyptian thinks of legalizing the sale of ancient artifacts.

Yasser Adel, 40, programmer: “If it is good source for money, I’ll totally agree. But I don’t think it will be a good idea if there was money and no one benefited from it. So I’d only agree if there was a direct benefit like paying debts or solving problems.”

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