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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 November, 2003, 12:09 GMT
Stolen tombstone returned to Iran

An ancient tombstone stolen from a mosque in Iran has been returned to the Iranian Embassy in London.

The Metropolitan police said their arts and antiques unit, which worked with Interpol to find the tombstone, seized it from a London-based antiques dealer who was trying to sell it for 100,000 ($170,000).

The 900-year-old tombstone, or funerary mihrab, is inscribed in Kufic, early Arabic lettering, and marks the death of Abdullah in the Islamic year 533 - or AD 1138.

Police believe the stone, which is 73 by 49 centimetres, was shipped to the UK after being taken from a mosque in Yazd, south of the capital, Tehran.

The theft of this or any artefact is a very serious crime
Tarique Ghaffur
Metropolitan Police

An Iranian embassy official in London, S Taheri Shemirani, thanked the police for recovering the item which, he said, was of great importance to his country.

"I hope the co-operation between our countries, that has begun with this case, will continue," he said.

Tarique Ghaffur, assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said he was pleased to be able to repatriate such a significant religious artefact.

The police said two men and a woman were arrested for allegedly handling stolen goods. However no further action was taken against them.

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