Commercial galleries

Iran loses case against Barakat Gallery ordering return of artefacts seemingly taken from Jiroft

UK courts ruled that Iran presented insufficient evidence to warrant the antiquities' reacquisition

The Iranian government is considering an appeal after losing a High Court case against the Barakat Gallery, of London and Los Angeles, over antiquities allegedly looted from tombs. At stake are 18 vessels, which cost around £250,000.

Iran argues that the antiquities had been plundered from the Halil Rud site, at Jiroft, which dates from around 3000 BC. The tombs were only discovered six year ago, after a river burst its banks, exposing the remains.

The Barakat Gallery states that it bought the artefacts in good faith in France, Germany and Switzerland, and there is no proof that they came from Halil Rud.

In his judgment of 29 March, Mr Justice Gray said that under Iranian law, the authorities had not proved that they had automatic title, and it was unprecedented for a foreign state to enforce its laws through the English courts over such a matter. He therefore found in favour of Barakat.

Fayez Barakat commented after the judgment: “We do understand the Islamic Republic of Iran’s desire to preserve its rich and diverse heritage. However, there must also be protection for those of us who, quite legitimately, are dealing in antiquities.”

Jeremy Scott, a lawyer with Withers acting for Iran, warned that the recent judgement “will be of great concern to many countries as it places their archaeological heritage at further risk”.

Iran is considering an appeal. Omid Ghanami, of Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organisation, said that his country would now “attempt to recover the Persian artefacts through appealing to the courts”.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Iran loses case against Barakat Gallery'

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 180 May 2007