Top French curator faces chargesfor library thefts

5th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 30 (AFP) - One of France's leading specialists in mediaeval Hebrew manuscripts was facing charges for theft Wednesday after being identified by police as the man behind a series of disappearances at the French National Library (BNF) in Paris.

PARIS, July 30 (AFP) - One of France's leading specialists in mediaeval Hebrew manuscripts was facing charges for theft Wednesday after being identified by police as the man behind a series of disappearances at the French National Library (BNF) in Paris.

Michel Garel, who has been in charge of the BNF's Hebrew collection since 1980, has been placed under judicial investigation for aggravated theft, justice officials said. Arrested a week ago at his office, he has been released on bail.

Suspicion centred on Garel, 56, earlier this year when an anonymous letter to the BNF drew attention to the sale of one of the library's missing manuscripts at the auction house Christie's in New York in 2000. Investigators established that he was the original vendor.

Overall he is accused of stealing or mutilating five religious texts dating from the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, which formed part of the BNF's collection of 1,350 Hebrew manuscripts - one of the world's largest. His wife, also a curator, faces charges of illegal possession.

The BNF first noticed that documents had gone missing in 1998, at the time of the removal of part of the collection from the library's historic building on the rue de Richelieu in central Paris to the newly-built Francois-Mitterrand site to the east. In addition to the five manuscripts, some 100 printed documents have also disappeared.

"This is a blow to the sacred duty at the heart of the mission of all curators, which is to conserve manuscripts of inexpressible importance," said BNF president Jean-Noel Jeanneney.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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