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Crime & Litigation



Authorities recover $10M in stolen art, arrest suspect

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Written by Associated Press   
Friday, 19 December 2014 10:07
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Authorities have recovered $10 million worth of art – including paintings by Chagall and Diego Rivera – that were stolen in one of Los Angeles' largest art heists.

According to the Los Angeles Times, court documents show FBI and Los Angeles police investigators recovered nine pieces of art at a West LA hotel in October.

Prosecutors allege 45-year-old Raul Espinoza tried to sell the art to undercover agents for $700,000 cash. He pleaded not guilty to receiving stolen property and remains jailed.

Messages seeking comment were left for Espinoza's public defender Wednesday.

The artworks were among a dozen stolen from a real estate investor's home in August 2008. The elderly residents were in their bedrooms and heard nothing.

Three paintings are still missing.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-12-18-14 0117GMT

 

 

 

 

Auction house withdraws lost letter to Jack Kerouac

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Written by John Rogers, Associated Press   
Thursday, 11 December 2014 11:34
Jack Kerouac in a Naval Reserve enlistment photograph, 1943. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. LOS ANGELES (AP) — Plans to auction the lost letter that inspired Jack Kerouac to turn On The Road into a literary classic have been put on hold after the estates of Kerouac and the letter's author, Neal Cassady, made separate ownership claims to the 16,000-word missive.

Profiles in History spokeswoman Sabrina Propper said Wednesday the auction house's Dec. 17 sale has been "postponed indefinitely."

She declined to elaborate but the San Francisco Chronicle quoted Kerouac estate attorney Nick Mitrokostas as saying the estate believes the letter is its property.

Cassady's daughter Jami Cassady told The Associated Press her family believes it holds the copyright to the words in the letter and would like to eventually publish them.

She said both estates are filing court motions but a hearing is yet to be scheduled.

Kerouac said the correspondence, nicknamed "The Joan Anderson Letter," inspired him to scrap an early version of On The Road and rewrite it in three weeks in his friend's fast-paced, stream-of-consciousness style. He called the letter "the greatest piece of writing I ever saw," adding had it not been lost it would have transformed his friend and literary muse into a major literary figure himself.

Kerouac scholars have for decades considered it a key missing link in the author's legacy.

It was found by LA performance artist Jean Spinosa as she went through her late father's belongings.

"We want to be nice to Jeannie. We don't want to cut her out of anything," Jami Cassady said Wednesday, adding the estate has no problem with her selling the physical letter.

Kerouac believed it had been dropped off a houseboat in Sausalito, Calif., in 1955 after poet Allen Ginsberg sent it to a literary agent in hopes of having it published.

The former agent, Gerd Stern, always denied losing the letter.

"After 50 years, it's a blessing to be vindicated," he told the AP last month after it surfaced.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 December 2014 11:48
 

Israel accuses Palestinians of looting antiquities

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Written by DANIEL ESTRIN, Associated Press   
Monday, 08 December 2014 10:14
A view of the Dead Sea from a cave at Qumran in which some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Image by Eric Matson, Matson Photo Service, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

JERUSALEM (AP) – Six Palestinians were charged in an Israeli court Sunday of digging illegally for antiquities in a remote desert region where archaeologists believe undiscovered Dead Sea Scrolls are buried, Israel's Antiquities Authority said.

The arrests came after a yearlong operation to stop looting in the Judean Desert, thought to be the source of scroll fragments, which have recently trickled onto the local antiquities market, said Uzi Rotstein, an Israeli antiquities inspector.

Rotstein said he spotted the alleged antiquities looters by chance in late November He was in the desert training as a volunteer in a hiker rescue squad when he took a photograph of a far-off cave on the side of a cliff and noticed two men standing by it.

“No one has any business being there on a Saturday morning,” said Rotstein.

He said the suspects climbed down a steep 70-meter descent to reach what is known to archaeologists as the previously excavated Cave of the Skulls, destroying archaeological strata in the cave dating back 5,000 years.

In the late afternoon, the six suspects, Palestinian men from the West Bank village of Sair near Hebron, climbed back up the cliff side where they were detained by Antiquities Authority officials, he said. They have remained in police custody since.

The suspects were carrying excavation tools, metal detectors, and a 2,000-year-old hair comb, he said.

The Antiquities Authority accuses them of digging for Dead Sea Scrolls, texts left in caves during the first-century Jewish-Roman war and during the second-century Bar Kochba revolt, when Jewish fighters battling the Roman army sought refuge in the desert.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are the world's oldest biblical manuscripts. Their initial discovery in 1947 was one of the 20th century's greatest archaeological finds.

“For many years now gangs of antiquities robbers have been operating along the Judean Desert cliffs,” looking for Dead Sea Scrolls, said Amir Ganor, director of the Antiquities Authority's anti-looting unit, in a press release.

“It has been decades since perpetrators were caught red-handed. This is mainly due to the difficultly in detecting and catching them on the wild desert cliffs,” Ganor said.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-12-07-14 1501GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
A view of the Dead Sea from a cave at Qumran in which some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Image by Eric Matson, Matson Photo Service, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Last Updated on Monday, 08 December 2014 10:27
 

Suspect in Jewish Museum murders remanded to jail

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Written by AFP wire service   
Friday, 05 December 2014 13:35

Mehdi Nemmouche

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche, suspected of killing four people at Brussels' Jewish Museum in May, was remanded in custody for another three months on Friday, judicial officials said.

Nemmouche, 29, of Algerian origin and who spent more than a year fighting with Islamic extremists in Syria, has been charged with "murder in a terrorist context" after an Israeli couple, a French woman and a Belgian were shot dead at the museum in central Brussels.

The hearing took place in a closed session. Nemmouche was first ordered held following his extradition from France at the end of July.

Nemmouche's lawyers said they had not asked for bail. At the last hearing, they said such an approach "was absolutely not an admission of guilt."

One of the lawyers, Sebastien Courtoy, had said there was a major problem with the prosecution in that "there is no direct proof of the clear presence of Nemmouche at the scene."

Courtoy claimed the authorities were trying to blacken his client's character, citing reports that Nemmouche had helped guard Western hostages held by Islamic extremists in Syria.

The museum shooting – the first such attack in Brussels in three decades – raised fears of a resurgence of anti-Semitic violence in Europe and of terror attacks from foreign fighters returning from Syria.

Nemmouche was arrested in the southern French city of Marseille after being spotted on a bus from Brussels.

A revolver and Kalashnikov rifle were found in his luggage, resembling weapons captured on museum security footage, as was a camera.

According to prosecutors, a video found on the camera's memory features a voice similar to Nemmouche's claiming responsibility for the attack.

 

 

Last Updated on Friday, 05 December 2014 13:35
 

UNESCO wants ban on Iraq, Syria artifact trafficking

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Written by THOMAS ADAMSON, Associated Press   
Friday, 05 December 2014 09:21
The shrine of Jonah in Mosul was destroyed by explosives set by forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant on July 24. Image by Roland Unger. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license. PARIS (AP) – The head of UNESCO is calling on the U.N. Security Council to adopt a ban on the illicit trafficking of cultural objects from conflict zones in Iraq and Syria.

Ahead of a conference on endangered heritage Wednesday, Irina Bokova told The Associated Press the trafficking of objects obtained through illegal excavations in both countries is an industry now worth between $7 billion and $15 billion.

“(A U.N. ban) is critical in order to curb the financial flows, because there is the other dark side of this process: that extremists are using this money to fund their activities,” she told the AP.

“If the international community and the Security Council want to stop the financing of the terrorists, they need to look also at the trafficking of objects of art,” she said.

The 3 1/2-year-long civil war in Syria has killed more than 200,000 people and touched off a massive humanitarian crisis, forcing more than 3 million to seek refuge abroad and displacing another 6.5 million within the country. Meanwhile, the Islamic State group has seized most of the border crossings between Iraq and Syria and overrun large parts of both countries.

Antiquities officials there have warned of a disaster as the region's history is erased. When Islamic State militants besieged Iraq's northern city of Mosul and surrounding areas in June, they captured a region where nearly 1,800 of Iraq's 12,000 registered archaeological sites are located. In both Syria and Iraq militants have demolished relics, pillaged sites and sold relics on the international black market.

Extremists dig up archaeological sites, sometimes with bulldozers, Bokova said.

The heritage conference, which is attended by the U.N.'s representatives for Syria and Iraq and being held at the U.N. cultural agency's Paris headquarters, aims to find solutions to preserving endangered heritage in the region, including Syria's Aleppo and Iraq's Sufi Sheiks tombs.

UNESCO has started working with Christie's and Sotheby's in an attempt to stop illicit artifacts from war zones going under the hammer at auctions in the West.

The heritage concerns will also bring a rare instance of round table talks between the warring factions within Syria.

Experts from both sides of the Syrian conflict – the Western-backed Free Syria Army rebel group and Bashar Assad's Syrian government – will meet as part of a Beirut-based observatory group mediated by UNESCO and funded by the European Union to find common ground in protecting Syrian sites.

The meeting will also try to establish “safe places” to safeguard heritage in the area.

“It's a small initial step, but it's important,” Bokova said.

___

Thomas Adamson can be followed at http://Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP

___

Associated Press writer Zeina Karam in Beirut contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-12-03-14 1850GMT



ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE
The shrine of Jonah in Mosul was destroyed by explosives set by forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant on July 24. Image by Roland Unger. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.
Last Updated on Friday, 05 December 2014 09:54
 
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