CAIRO: World-renowned Egyptologist and former Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass has called on Egyptian authorities to amend the Antiquities Protection Law to curb an escalation in illicit digging and antiquities smuggling.
In his interview with Al-Arabiya’s sister channel Al-Hadath Thursday, Hawass called on the current Antiquities Ministry to push for harsher punishment on antiquities crimes.
“The punishment for such immoral crimes should be more of a deterrent by changing the crime description from misdemeanor to felony. This will help in putting an end to ongoing illicit digging and antiquities smuggling disasters,” Hawass said, demanding the amendment of the Antiquities Law be a “top priority” for Egypt’s coming parliament.
The Egyptian law governing archaeology and the antiquities trade is Law 117 of 1983 on the Protection of Antiquities. It was revised by Law 3 of 2010, Karem Aidy, a lawyer at the State Council, told The Cairo Post Friday.
“Articles 41 and 42 of Law 3 for 2010 state that whoever steals, hides, unlawfully smuggles or participates in smuggling an antiquity outside Egypt shall be subject to an intensive prison term with hard labor for not less than three years and not more than 15 years, and a fine of not less than 100,000 EGP ($15,000) and not more than 1 million EGP. Moreover, the antiquity in question shall be confiscated,” said Aidy.
During the past three and half years, a third of Egypt’s archaeological sites have been either looted, exposed to agricultural encroachments or illegal building or experienced illicit digging, said Hawass. He added that thousands of ancient Egyptian artifacts have been smuggled to Europe and North America.
According to Hawass, satellite and infrared-based systems have identified and monitored several hotspots, especially in Upper Egypt, where organized looting activities have occurred.
During the past four years, Egypt has recovered over 1,600 smuggled artifacts and is currently working on other cases in many European countries, Antiquities Ministry Restored Artifacts Department head Dr. Ali Ahmed previously told The Cairo Post.