Story By: Ernest Bio Bogore, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Newsflash
Five African rights activists who tried to steal items from a museum in France to “take them home” have appeared in court in Paris.
The prosecutor is asking for a EUR 1,000 (GBP 907) fine against Congolese activist Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza despite the maximum possible sentence of 10 years in prison and a EUR 150,000 (GBP 136,000) fine.
Emery Diyabanza Mwazulu, who was arrested for attempting to remove a funeral urn at the Musee du Quai Branly, was in front of the Paris court with 4 other of his acolytes to face charges. The prosecutor has requested that the four other people be given a suspended fine of EUR 500 (GBP 453).
The case dates back to 12th June. The five activists are on trial for taking a 19th-century Sara (Chad) funeral post by tearing it off its base at the Quai Branly museum.
Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza had taken the object in his arms and shouted: “We are taking them home”. The five activists had not left the museum, however, and the object was eventually handed back to guards.
In Paris, before trying to take the object away, Mwazulu explained: “These items were pillaged between 1880 and 1960 under colonialism. Everything here belongs to us.
“We have come here to reclaim the true soul of Africa, the soul that will allow us to be ourselves, to regain our identity.”
Prosecuted for “attempting to steal a classified movable object during a meeting”, the five activists risked a 10-year prison sentence and a EUR 150,000 fine, but the prosecutor insisted on a sentence “of principle and appeasement”.
Lawyer Hakim Chergui estimated that 116,000 items in French museums are considered to have been looted from Africans: “My clients did not commit theft, they interrupted concealment”.
The lawyer of the Quai Branly Museum acknowledged the statements of his colleague from the defence and specified that “the debate is open on the restitution” of the items but the gesture of the five defendants risks being “counterproductive” by undermining the ongoing discussions with “several African States”.
Suspended fines of EUR 500 (GBP 453) were demanded by the public prosecutor against the four other pan-African activists who wanted by their gesture to denounce “the plundering of Africa” by the former colonial power.
According to Le Monde, at the instigation of Emmanuel Macron, France has undertaken to return a historic sword to Senegal and 26 objects looted by French colonial troops in 1892 in Benin, in the coming months.
The verdict for the trial will be handed down on 14th October.
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