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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 August 2006, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Court battle for stolen artefact
France's National Library
The Bibliotheque Nationale is France's largest library
A New York art dealer is locked in a legal battle with France and auction house Christie's over a 13th Century Jewish manuscript.

Yosef Goldman bought the Torah at a New York auction six years ago.

France later sued Goldman for the artefact's return, saying it had been stolen from their national library.

Goldman then sued Christie's, claiming they should not have sold him the manuscript. Christie's says it did not know the item was stolen at the time.

"We believe his suit has no merit, and we will follow up in court," Christie's spokesman, Toby Usnik, told the Associated Press news agency.

Goldman wants the auction house to return the $358,000 (188,000) he paid for the manuscript in 2000, according to his attorney, Nathaniel Lewin.

Vanished

According to France's legal case, the government obtained the Torah in 1668. It is unclear when it vanished from the library.

However, a former chief curator of the library's Hebrew collection, Michel Garel, was convicted of stealing the manuscript in March this year.

The 57-year-old was given a two-year suspended prison term and fined 400,000 euros (270,000).

Mr Garel, who at first admitted the charges and then denied them, said he would appeal the verdict.

In 2005, officials from the Bibliotheque Nationale discovered that 30,000 books and manuscripts were missing from its collection.


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