Minister of Culture Khalida Toumi and her Tunisian counterpart Mourad Sakli have signed Sunday in Tunis the minutes on the restitution to Algeria of the Mask of Gorgon, a rare archaeological piece stolen in east of Algeria in 1996 and found in Tunisia in 2011.
The 320-kg white marble piece, exhibited at Carthage Museum during the restitution ceremony, will return to Algeria Sunday to be exhibited as from Monday at the National Museum of Antiquities in Algiers.
The restitution of the Mask of Gorgon to Algeria is "a moment of great ethical, symbolical and political importance for the two countries," said Khalida Toumi, adding that the "current regional context requires from both countries to strengthen their solidarity."
Toumi underlined the theft of the Mask of Gorgon from Annaba (600-km east of Algiers) in 1996 while Algeria "was facing with courage and abnegation the fundamentalist terrorism, was perceived by the Algerian people as a stab in the back at a time when they were mobilized for the protection of Algeria as a State, a nation and a society."
"It is not just an archaeological object to be recovered but a cultural heritage of the Algerian nation that must be restored," she said
As regards the fight against trafficking in cultural property, the minister said that the restitution of the archaeological piece was only a milestone in the efforts of Algeria in the area, stressing the need to combine efforts in this fight.
In this regard, Toumi called on the Tunisian brothers to get mobilized with Algeria for the restoration of the "stolen" cultural property.
This joint mobilization is due to be achieved by the forthcoming creation of an Algerian-Tunisian committee of experts, in charge of the fight against trafficking in cultural property, as decided in February during the 19th session of Algeria-Tunisia High Joint Commission, she recalled.
The Mask of Gorgon was found in Sakhr El Matri's, son-in-law of the deposed Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.