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CRIME

Bangladesh official charged over Italian’s murder

Bangladesh police have charged seven people including a senior opposition official over the murder of an Italian aid worker last September, an officer said on Tuesday

Bangladesh official charged over Italian's murder
Tavella's body leaves Bangladesh. Photo: Munir Az Zaman/AFP

The killing near the capital's diplomatic zone was the first in a wave of attacks to be claimed by the Islamic State group, and was followed days later by the gunning down of a Japanese farmer in northern Bangladesh.
   
Bangladesh authorities rejected the IS claim of responsibility, saying the group had no presence in the country.
   
The government and police say homegrown militants are responsible for the deaths of nearly 50 secular activists, foreigners and religious minorities killed over the last three years.
   
They say the deaths are part of a plot to destabilize the country, and have blamed the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its Islamist ally.
   
Deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Sheikh Nazmul Alam said seven people had been charged with the murder of 50-year-old Italian Cesare Tavella, including two BNP officials.
   
“We submitted the chargesheet against the seven on Monday. Those who are charged include Abdul Quayum who masterminded the attack,” Alam told AFP, referring to a senior BNP official who is believed to be living in exile in Malaysia.
   
He said the attack was part of a plot “to tarnish the image of the country and destabilize it”.
   
Quayum denied the charge, telling the Daily Star newspaper he was being victimized because of his political affiliation.
   
BNP spokesman Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said the charge was “false and politically motivated”.
   
“It is an attempt to hide the real killers,” Rizvi told AFP.
   
Bangladesh this month launched a nationwide crackdown on local jihadist groups, arresting more than 11,000 people, under pressure to act on the spate of killings.
   
But many rights groups allege the arrests were arbitrary or were a way to silence political opponents of the government.
   
Experts say a government crackdown on opponents, including a ban on the country's largest Islamist party following a protracted political crisis, has pushed many towards extremism.
   
Dhaka police chief Asaduzzaman Khan said after Tavella's death that his murder was intended to “embarrass the government” and prove the country was unsafe for foreigners.
   
International schools closed temporarily after the murders and embassies restricted their diplomats' movements, while Australia's cricket team cancelled a planned tour over security concerns.

CRIME

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

Authorities in New York announced on Thursday the return to Italy of 14 more antiquities, worth an estimated €2.3 million, as part of an investigation into smuggling of stolen artifacts.

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has been conducting an extensive investigation over the past two years into looted antiquities that have ended up in New York museums and galleries — including the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art.

During a ceremony on Thursday with the Italian consul general and Italian police representatives, 14 more artifacts – some 2,600 years old – were officially returned to Italy, bringing the total number of repatriated pieces to that country over the past seven months to 214, District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said.

READ ALSO: Italian ‘art squad’ police recover 800 illegally-excavated archaeological finds

More than 700 pieces worth more than $100 million have been returned in the past year to 17 countries, including Italy as well as Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, and Greece, the statement added.

New York, a hub of stolen antiquities trafficking for decades, set up a task force in 2017 to investigate the illicit trade.

According to the statement by District Attorney Bragg, who took office in January 2022, Thursday’s repatriation included the silver “Sicily Naxos Coin,” minted around 430 BCE and currently valued at half a million dollars.

Other notable items included ancient pottery dating to 510 BCE, and amarble head of Roman Emperor Hadrian, dating to 200 CE.

Among the culprits behind the 14 returned pieces, the statement said, were well-known art traffickers Giacomo Medici and Giovanni Franco Becchina, as well as Robert Hecht, the Paris-based American art dealer who died in 2012.

The traffickers had “relied on gangs of tombaroli (tomb raiders) to loot carefully chosen and insufficiently guarded archaeological sites throughout the Mediterranean,” it added.

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