July 21, 2006

Previous warnings on Uşak security ignored

Posted at 12:56 pm in Similar cases

It now transpires that warnings had previously been given about the inadequate security surrounding the Croesus Treasury.

Zaman (Turkey)

CULTURE & SOCIETY 07.21.2006 Friday – ISTANBUL 13:43
2001 Warning Regarding Usak Museum Unheeded
By Abdullah Kilic, Istanbul

The Usak Museum scandal, referred to as the “Susurluk of museums” by Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism Atilla Koc, has apparently been revealed as a systematic and calculated organization.

Three experts working at the museum filed petitions to the governorship, the General Directorate for Museums and the Ministry of Culture in 2001, reporting incidents of theft and corruption at the Usak Museum.

However, warnings suggesting that the valuable King Croesus’ Treasure was left unprotected and faced imminent theft were not taken into consideration.

Moreover, the Ministry of Culture reportedly “censured” Sibel Alpaslan, Halil Arca and Sadık Dogan, the same experts that alerted the authorities to the theft at the museum.

These three experts were later transferred to other provinces.

“If our petitions at that time had been taken into consideration, the ‘Winged Seahorse Brooch’ and dozens of other works might still be on display at the museum today,” said Halil Arca, currently serving as deputy curator at the Ayasofya Museum in Istanbul.

The unorthodox practices of Director Kazim Akbiyikoglu that paved the way for the theft were highlighted in the 2001 official complaint that was forwarded to the ministry by museum staff.

Usak museum staff complained that the key to the invaluable display was kept in an unlocked desk drawer in the director’s unlocked office. In addition, a theft had taken place at the Ataturk and Etnografya Museum, but it was noted, the event was covered up by Akbiyikoglu and the theft was not reported to the police or the general directorate, the petition read.

The petition also claimed that the museum’s curator falsified official documents and awarded a “collectors certificate” to smugglers of historical works. Security measures at the Usak Museum were extremely lax and unknown parties were frequently given unsupervised access to the museum’s storerooms by the curator for “research” purposes.

Despite all these allegations, then-governor Ayhan Cevik did not authorize an investigation into Curator Kazim Akbiyikoglu, now imprisoned.

At the time the Ministry of Culture gave an “admonition” to the three experts on the grounds of dismissing the administrative procedure and filing their petition directly to the minister and general director, which is considered a crime according to the Law of Civil Servants.

However, Sibel Alpaslan, Halil Arca and Sadik Dogan appealed the decision at the Manisa Regional Administrative Court and presented their concerns to the authorities again.

Examining the experts’ report, the court ruled against the governorship for failing to authorize an official investigation and overturned the decision.

Obliged to follow the court’s decision, the governorship allowed the public prosecutor to launch an investigation into the Usak museum’s curator.

However, the indictment prepared by the prosecutor did not include the charges of “failure to inform the police and ministry of theft t the museum, falsification of official documents, or sending historical works outside of the city limits without approval from the ministry,” though these appeared in the decision of the regional administrative court.

The ministry was required to send inspectors to investigate the claims made in the indictment prepared by the prosecutor involved in the case.

Examining the allegations, the inspectors found the curator guilty of “censure and admonition,” a charge that carried the minimum penalty allowed.

‘We turned out to be correct’

The objection raised by the three experts that suggests the prosecutor’s indictment was incomplete was not taken into consideration; moreover, Sibel Alpaslan and Halil Arca were transferred to Afyon and later to Istanbul, while Sadik Dogan was transferred to Bergama.

Arca assessed that they were punished for simply for being conscientious and warning the ministry in time. “If the ministry had taken us into consideration at that time, Turkey would not be experiencing these scandals today.”

New scandals arise in Usak Museum

As the investigation into the stolen “Winged Seahorse Brooch” deepens, other scandals are coming to light at the museum.

Following the revelation of a fake Kroisos Term electron coin, a case similar to that of the “Winged Seahorse Brooch,” a total of 71 historical carpets and kilims were also discovered missing during an inventory of the collection conducted at the museum.

Nearly 35 historic documents from the War of Independence, mostly belonging to Ataturk, were also discovered to be missing from the museum collection.

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