1,200-year-old Bible seized by Turkish police

Anti smuggling operation recovers ancient Bible allegedly up for sale on the black market

Gold leaf decorates the bible, found with a star and a cross motif. Source: Diyarbakir Governorship 

A 1,200-year-old Bible has been found by anti-smuggling officers in Turkey, local authorities said on Thursday.

Police recovered the book after being told that three people were looking to sell the religious scripture.

Local authorities said six suspects in total were arrested, caught “red handed” by officers.

Gold leaf decorates the 34 paged leather-bound Bible, with a cross motif painted.

Authorities provided no other information about its origin.

The operation took place in the southern district of Diyarbakir, close to the Syrian border.

Artefacts often travel the other way, from war torn countries such as Syria and Iraq where they are plundered and make their way into Western art markets.

Turkey has ramped up anti-smuggling operations as it has become an important route for smugglers in recent years.

The FBI recovered a mosaic depicting Hercules in California last year, thought to have entered the US from Syria via Turkey.

According to court documents published in 2018, the FBI had been investigating Mohamad Yassin Alcharihi in California for three years. It is understood Mr Alcharihi was not charged, and denied he imported the mosaic illegally.

Public documents from the US judiciary also reveal that the government retained the help of an expert who suggested that there has been a rise in looted Syrian artefacts since 2012 and routinely routed through Turkey.

In March last year, Spanish police arrested Jaume Bagot Peix, an art dealer accused of being part of a smuggling operation that trafficked looted historical items from Libya to fund Islamic State (IS).

Police said both Mr Bagor Peix and his business partner Oriol Carreras Palomar were part of a network based in Catalonia that sourced, restored and resold archaeological works from sites controlled by extremists linked to IS.

Police in Barcelona also found items such as sarcophagi and other ancient Greco-Roman works from sites in northern Libya and Egypt in raids conducted in 2018.