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40 Iranian historical artifacts to be returned from Austria

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This photo taken from the website of the Iranian Embassy in Vienna shows an official ceremony, during which Austrian officials handed over 40 artifacts to Tehran's ambassador, July 9, 2020.

An Iranian cultural official says dozens of ancient Persian artifacts and clay tablets, which were taken out of the country to Austria, are set to return home later this month.

Ebrahim Shaghaghi, a senior official with the Iranian Ministry of Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts, announced that 40 artifacts and clay tablets had been placed in the custody of Iran’s Embassy in Austria and would be sent back home by the end of this month.

Last year, Interpol’s Austria office informed Iranian police that the historical items had been discovered inside a safe deposit box at a bank, whose clients were requested to empty their boxes before a renovation project.

Apparently, the owner of the specified box was not present in Austria at the time, prompting the bank’s authorities to open the box themselves.

The box belonged to an Iranian individual residing in Austria, according to the authorities.

Shaghaghi said that “ever since we learned about the discovery of the items in Austria, we have been following up on the case.”

The Iranian official said that “based on the photos sent by Austrian police, experts said they have no doubt that the items belong to Iran,” but their authenticity still needs to be verified upon their arrival in the country.

Without identifying the safe box owner, Shaghaghi said he is a middle aged man, who is free on bail pending trial, during which he is slated to present the court with evidence of legal possession of the antiquities.

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