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CRIME

Bangladesh official charged over Italian’s murder

Bangladesh police have charged seven people including a senior opposition official over the murder of an Italian aid worker last September, an officer said on Tuesday

Bangladesh official charged over Italian's murder
Tavella's body leaves Bangladesh. Photo: Munir Az Zaman/AFP

The killing near the capital's diplomatic zone was the first in a wave of attacks to be claimed by the Islamic State group, and was followed days later by the gunning down of a Japanese farmer in northern Bangladesh.
   
Bangladesh authorities rejected the IS claim of responsibility, saying the group had no presence in the country.
   
The government and police say homegrown militants are responsible for the deaths of nearly 50 secular activists, foreigners and religious minorities killed over the last three years.
   
They say the deaths are part of a plot to destabilize the country, and have blamed the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its Islamist ally.
   
Deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Sheikh Nazmul Alam said seven people had been charged with the murder of 50-year-old Italian Cesare Tavella, including two BNP officials.
   
“We submitted the chargesheet against the seven on Monday. Those who are charged include Abdul Quayum who masterminded the attack,” Alam told AFP, referring to a senior BNP official who is believed to be living in exile in Malaysia.
   
He said the attack was part of a plot “to tarnish the image of the country and destabilize it”.
   
Quayum denied the charge, telling the Daily Star newspaper he was being victimized because of his political affiliation.
   
BNP spokesman Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said the charge was “false and politically motivated”.
   
“It is an attempt to hide the real killers,” Rizvi told AFP.
   
Bangladesh this month launched a nationwide crackdown on local jihadist groups, arresting more than 11,000 people, under pressure to act on the spate of killings.
   
But many rights groups allege the arrests were arbitrary or were a way to silence political opponents of the government.
   
Experts say a government crackdown on opponents, including a ban on the country's largest Islamist party following a protracted political crisis, has pushed many towards extremism.
   
Dhaka police chief Asaduzzaman Khan said after Tavella's death that his murder was intended to “embarrass the government” and prove the country was unsafe for foreigners.
   
International schools closed temporarily after the murders and embassies restricted their diplomats' movements, while Australia's cricket team cancelled a planned tour over security concerns.

CRIME

New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

Prosecutors in New York on Tuesday returned dozens of antiquities stolen from Italy and valued at around $19 million, some of which were found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

“These 58 pieces represent thousands of years of rich history, yet traffickers throughout Italy utilized looters to steal these items and to line their own pockets,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, noting that it was the third such repatriation in nine months.

“For far too long, they have sat in museums, homes, and galleries that had no rightful claim to their ownership,” he said at a ceremony attended by Italian diplomats and law enforcement officials.

The stolen items had been sold to Michael Steinhardt, one of the world’s leading collectors of ancient art, the DA’s office said, adding that he had been slapped with a “first-of-its-kind lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities.”

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Among the recovered treasures, which in some cases were sold to “unwitting collectors and museums,” were a marble head of the Greek goddess Athena from 200 B.C.E. and a drinking cup dating back to 470 B.C.E, officials said.

The pieces were stolen at the behest of four men who “all led highly lucrative criminal enterprises – often in competition with one another – where they would use local looters to raid archaeological sites throughout Italy, many of which were insufficiently guarded,” the DA’s office said.

One of them, Pasquale Camera, was “a regional crime boss who organized thefts from museums and churches as early as the 1960s. He then began purchasing stolen artifacts from local looters and sold them to antiquities dealers,” it added.

It said that this year alone, the DA’s office has “returned nearly 300 antiquities valued at over $66 million to 12 countries.”

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