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European court upholds Italy's right to claim ancient Greek statue from Getty Museum

Italy culture minister welcomes court ruling.

A European court on Thursday upheld Italy's right to claim an ancient Greek bronze statue from the Getty Villa Museum in California.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rejected an appeal by the J. Paul Getty Trust and ruled unanimously in favour of Italy which has for decades has sought to reclaim the prized Victorious Youth statue from the American museum.

In a statement, Italian culture minister Gennaro Sangiuliano welcomed the "unequivocal ruling" by the Strasbourg court and pledged to "continue our action with renewed determination to have [the statue] back in Italy soon".

The life-sized statue, attributed to the Greek sculptor Lysippos, was found in 1964 by Italian fishermen in the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Pesaro. 

Dating from 300 BC to 100 BC, the statue was later trafficked abroad illegally, changing hands several times before being purchased by the Getty for $4 million in 1977. It has been on display at the Getty Villa Museum in Malibu since 1978.

The Getty has long held that Italy had no legal claim to the Greek statue, arguing that it was not part of Italy's cultural heritage and claiming that it had been found in international waters.

However Italy has always insisted that the statue is part of its national cultural heritage and that it was brought ashore aboard an Italian-flagged boat before being smuggled out of the country and acquired illegally.

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