Volume. 11951

U.S. court rejects seizure of Persian artifacts again
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c_330_235_16777215_0___images_stories_edim_MMS27(1).jpgTEHRAN -- A federal judge in Chicago has ruled that the Persian artifacts at the Field Museum of Natural History and the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute cannot be seized to pay a $412 million judgment against the Iranian government.
U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman said on March 28 that the plaintiffs hadn’t proven that the Iranian government owned the Field Museum items. And he said the Oriental Institute artifacts were loaned for scholarship, not commercial purposes, and so couldn’t be seized, AP reported.
Museum attorneys said the plaintiffs will likely appeal the ruling to the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
“I am very pleased,” said Matt Stolper, who oversees the Persian collections at the Oriental Institute. 
“I’m happy these (artifacts) don’t need to be surrendered to be turned into money,” he added.
Nine people injured in a 1997 bombing in Israel fought for a decade in the Chicago courts to force the Field Museum and the University of Chicago to turn over the priceless relics to punish Iran for funding Hamas, which took responsibility for the bombing.
In 2003, a U.S. district court ruled that the group of people could seize 300 clay Achaemenid tablets loaned by the National Museum of Iran to the university.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected confiscation of the tablets in March 2011. However it ruled that the case should be returned to the lower court for further argument.
The collection is among 8,000 to 10,000 intact and about 11,000 fragmented tablets that were loaned to the university’s Oriental Institute in 1937 for study. The Field Museum collection was far smaller.
A group of 179 complete tablets was returned in 1948, and another group of more than 37,000 tablet fragments was returned in 1951.
“After we finish making records of them, we will send the rest back to Iran,” Stolper said.
Photo: In this October 16, 2008 photo, Matt Stolper, director of the Persepolis Fortification Archive at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, examines a tablet that is part of a collection that provide a top-to-bottom look at life in the Persian empire 2,500 years ago. (AP/M. Spencer Green)

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