Rare copy of Old Testament seized by Iraqi Customs
Courtesy of Agence France-Presse; 6 February 2001
(ZNDA: Baghdad) Iraqi customs have arrested a man for attempting to smuggle out of northern Iraq a rare copy of the Old Testament written on gazelle skin and worth 100,000 dollars.
The smuggler, whose nationality was not revealed, was also in possession of several other archaeological pieces when arrested in a customs sting operation in Mosul 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of Baghdad, the weekly Nabdh al-Shabab said.
Iraq imposes a maximum penalty of death for smuggling in antiquities. Ten smugglers were executed in Mosul in early 1998 for chopping off the head of a winged bull dating back to the Assyrian era.
On November 12, Iraqi customs said they foiled an operation to illegally export 570 rare pieces.
Northern Bet-Nahrain is a treasure-trove of more than 10,000 archaeological sites, most of them unexplored. The country used to attract several foreign expeditions before it came under UN sanctions in 1990.
The government has since banned exports of works of art, and even modern pieces require an export license in a bid to protect the national heritage.
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