The State Council Administrative Court on Saturday ordered the government to take the necessary procedures to recover 179 artifacts that belonged to Queen Cleopatra from the United States.
The artifacts had been sent to be displayed at a number of private exhibitions between 1 April 2010 and 3 July 2013.
Former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif had issued a decree to display the artifacts in the United States, based on an individual agreement signed by Zahi Hawass, the former head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities; the National Geographic Society, owned by billionaire Rupert Murdoch; and two other American associations.
The court ruled that the agreement is a violation of Article 10 of the Antiquities Protection Act, which prohibits contracts with private foreign societies to display antiquities outside Egypt.
The case documents show that the Supreme Council of Antiquities signed a contract with the Ohio International Arts and Exhibitions Foundation, the National Geographic Society in Washington and the Exhibition foundation in Los Angeles to display a number of Egyptian artifacts in five US cities in return for an amount of US$ 1.250 million.
The documents, the court says, do not show the approval of the president for the agreement. In addition, the bodies that had been contracted are private institutions and are not considered museums or scientific institutes as defined by the Antiquities Protection Act.
The court noted, therefore, that the conditions for the display of Egyptian antiquities abroad have not been met, and thus sending the antiquities abroad was illegal.
The court described the incident as a serious matter calling for immediate remedy, because the damage or loss of such artifacts would be irreparable.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm