Five activists tried in France for trying to seize African funeral staff | World news


Five activists have been tried in Paris for trying to remove funeral staff from France’s main museum of indigenous art as part of a campaign to pressure the government to return items they say were stolen.Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza, 41, led the operation at the Quai Branly museum last June, condemning “the plunder of Africa”.

“We are taking it home,” he said in a video posted to social media after removing 19th-century funeral staff and parading them around the building.

Since then, Diyabanza has organized similar operations in indigenous art museums in Marseille, in the south of France, and in Berg en Dal in the Netherlands.

“We had no intention of stealing this work, but we will continue until the injustice of looting Africa is corrected,” Diyabanza told AFP ahead of the trial.

He and four others are charged with attempted theft of a recorded work of art and face up to 10 years in prison and a € 150,000 ($ 176,000) fine.

But prosecutors on Wednesday asked for fines of € 1,000 ($ 1,200) against Diyabanza and € 500 ($ 585) against his accomplices.

Diyabanza himself prosecuted the French state after his arrest in June, accusing him of “stealing and receiving stolen goods” by amassing a huge collection of indigenous works of art from the colonial era.

However, the presiding judge told the court, “We are here to judge an offense, not to judge history.”

A verdict is expected on October 14.

French officials condemned the coup, which followed President Emmanuel Macron’s promise, soon after his election in May 2017, to look into the return of African cultural treasures.

France has since returned a ceremonial sword to Senegal and has promised to return to Benin 26 dozen works – including a royal throne – which were seized by French troops at the end of the 19th century.


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