JERUSALEM (JTA) — Iraq’s Tourism Ministry is calling on Israel to return an ancient Torah scroll that it says was illegally smuggled out of the country.
The rare Torah scroll was among several valuable Jewish artifacts that are believed to have been stolen from Iraq following the toppling of Saddam Hussein, the German news agency DPA reported Monday.
The accusation about the Torah scroll came following internal investigations by the ministry.
"A clear admission appeared on Israeli TV that shows there was a copy of the Torah which was smuggled from Iraq to Israel using bribery," Abd al-Zahra al-Talqani, a spokesman for the Iraqi Tourism Ministry, told the daily al-Sharq al-Awsat, according to DPA.
Iraq has requested that the United States return Jewish artifacts discovered by U.S. soldiers in the basement of Saddam’s secret police headquarters. The artifacts, dating from the 15th century, were becoming ruined in sewage water. Washington says it is holding the artifacts to keep them safe, DPA reported.
Most Iraqi Jews are now living in Israel.