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European court backs Italy’s bid to seize statue from US museum

<i>Victorious Youth</i>, dating from 300BC to 100BC, is one of the highlights of the Getty collection.

Victorious Youth, dating from 300BC to 100BC, is one of the highlights of the Getty collection. Photo: Getty

A European court has upheld Italy’s right to seize a prized Greek statue from the J Paul Getty Museum in California, rejecting the museum’s appeal and ruling Italy is right to try to reclaim an important part of its cultural heritage.

The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday determined that Italy’s years-long effort to recover the Victorious Youth statue were not disproportionate.

The Getty had appealed against a 2018 Italian high court ruling that had confirmed a confiscation order issued by a lower court.

Victorious Youth, a life-sized bronze dating from 300BC to 100BC, is one of the highlights of the Getty collection.

An Italian court in Pesaro had ordered it seized and returned in 2010, at the height of Italy’s campaign to recover antiquities looted from its territory and sold to museums and private collectors around the globe.

The Getty has long defended its right to the statue, saying Italy had no claim to it.

Among other things, the Getty has argued that the statue is of Greek origin, was found in international waters and has never been part of Italy’s cultural heritage.

It has cited a 1968 Court of Cassation ruling that found no evidence that the statue belonged to Italy.

The bronze, which was pulled from the sea in 1964 by Italian fishermen, was purchased by the Getty in 1977 for $US4 million ($6 million) and has since been on display at the Getty.

Thursday’s ruling by the Strasbourg, France-based ECHR was a chamber judgment.

Both sides have three months to ask that the case be heard by the court’s Grand Chamber for a final ruling.

There was no immediate comment from the Getty and its lawyers referred comment to the museum.

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