Egyptian government launches last-minute legal bid to stop sale of Sekhemka by Northampton Borough Council

Sekhemka statue ENGNNL00120130716121924
Sekhemka statue ENGNNL00120130716121924

An Egyptian minister has denounced the upcoming sale of Sekhemka and accused Northampton Borough Council of acting against the “values of museums worldwide”.

Antiquities Minister Mamdouh El-Damati has asked the Egyptian embassy in London to take all legal procedures to prevent an ancient statue from being sold in a Christie’s auction on Thursday.

In quotes reported on the English-language Egyptian news website ahramonline, Mr El-Damati has denounced the sale of the statue and described the museum’s actions as incompatible with the values and role of museums worldwide, which he said should “spread culture” and not try to simply earn money.

Mr El-Damati has called on the International Council of Museums (ICOM) to stop the sale on the grounds that it goes against the council’s ethics.

Ali Ahmed, head of the ministry’s stolen antiquities section, said the Sekhemka statue was given to Northampton Museum at the end of the 18th century by an Ottoman sultan and has been a part of the museum’s collection on display since 1849.

But a spokeswoman for Northampton Borough Council said Eqypt had no right to reclaim the statue and this had been confirmed after an investigation.

The spokeswoman said: “We contacted the Egyptian Government two years ago regarding our plans to sell Sekhemka.

“According to UNESCO’s 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, Egypt has no right to claim the recovery of the statue, as the statue left Egypt before this convention was put in place and this was confirmed by the Egyptian Government on June 15.”