Stolen mosque artefacts returned to Turkey

LONDON. Stolen items from three Istanbul mosques were restituted to the Turkish government in a ceremony at its London embassy on 9 April. The tiles and decorated doors, worth around £100,000 ($200,000), had been recovered by Scotland Yard in separate operations. The doors, from the Amasya Mehmet Pasha Mosque, were stolen on 1 June 2002 and later consigned to Sotheby’s. They were offered in its London Islamic sale on 27 April 2005, but identified as stolen shortly before the sale and withdrawn. A set of two tile panels, taken in December 2002 from the important Yeni Mosque, also turned up at Sotheby’s and were put into its 18 April 2007 London Islamic sale. Again, they were identified just before the sale and withdrawn. The third set of items, a fine group of 18th-century tiles depicting the Kaa’ba (Islam’s holiest site) in Mecca, had been stolen from the Cezeri Kasim Pasha Mosque in Eyup on 26 August 2003. A British dealer, who had acquired them, later checked their provenance, and discovered their origin. Police in London and Istanbul are currently following up the cases. Turkish ambassador Yigit Alpogan told The Art Newspaper that “legal proceedings” are under

way in Turkey. Two men were arrested in Britain, but they were

not charged. M.B.

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