Former Tunisian Dictator's Son-in-Law Accused of Looting 700-Pound "Gorgon's Mask" Sculpture From Algeria

30 May 2012 12:42 PM | Anonymous

Former Tunisian Dictator's Son-in-Law Accused of Looting 700-Pound "Gorgon's Mask" Sculpture From Algeria

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Photo by Boris Staykov
The Hippo Regius ruins in Algeria

Ousted Tunisian dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and his family have already been accused of plundering the nation's antiquities, particularly the ancient site of Carthage, for their own personal gain and enjoyment. Now it seems that the family's illicit reach extended further than previously realized: experts have identified a white marble sculpture found in the house of Ben Ali's son-in-law, Sakher el-Materi, as the Gorgon's Mask, a massive object that was stolen from Algeria back in 1996.

Authenticated by experts from the Algerian culture ministry, the artifact is key evidence in el-Materi's ongoing trial for archaeological plundering and trafficking, Le Journal des Arts reports. (Ben Ali is living in Saudi Arabia and el-Materi has been granted permanent residency by Qatar, but both are being tried by Tunisia in absentia, and Ben Ali has already been sentenced to decades of prison time for crimes including corruption and torture.) According to the Algerian newspaper Liberté, the Gorgon's Mask was first spotted by Saïd Dahmani, the former director of the Hippone antiquities museum, in a television program filmed in el-Materi's house after the fall of the regime. Ultimately, 164 plundered archaeological objects were discovered in the residence shared by el-Materi and Nesrine Ben Ali.

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