Middle East

Gaza police seize Banksy artwork amid ownership row

A mural of a crying figure by British street graffiti artist Banksy in the Gaza Strip, 1 April 2015 Image copyright AFP
Image caption The man who bought the artwork said he had wanted to protect it from neglect or destruction

Police in Gaza have confiscated a door bearing graffiti by UK artist Banksy after its original owner said he was tricked into selling it for $175.

They acted after a complaint was filed by Rabie Darduna against a local artist who bought the door from him.

The artist, Bilal Khaled, insisted that the purchase was legal.

Banksy painted an image of a Greek goddess Niobe, weeping for her dead offspring, on a door standing among the ruins of Mr Darduna's home in February.

The home was one of an estimated 18,000 in Gaza destroyed during last year's 50-day war with Israel. The conflict displaced 110,000 people, according to the UN.

'Cheated'

Banksy's work was seen in a video released by the secretive artist after he paid a surprise visit to the Gaza Strip.

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Media captionBanksy visited Gaza in February and used the rubble as a canvas for his graffiti

Mr Darduna said that after the picture began to get media attention he was approached by a group of men. They convinced him they were acting on behalf of Banksy and wanted to buy the door, as it was part of a series of works.

"One man told me: 'We're from the group that did it.' They made me sign a paper. It said I agreed on 700 shekels ($175; £120). They pressured me and I accepted because I need the money," he told the BBC last week.

"Really we feel depressed and very upset," he added. "This door is rightfully ours. They cheated us. It's a matter of fraud. And we're asking for the door to be returned."

Original Banksy artworks have recently sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Image caption The doorway where it once stood now stands empty

On Thursday, police in Khan Younis acted on a court order and seized the door.

"The policemen took the door away and they told me it would be held in accordance with a court order because there was a lawsuit against me," Mr Khaled told the Reuters news agency.

"I am the true owner of the door now, and I will seek to establish this in court."

Mr Darduna's lawyer, Mohammed Rihan said he was seeking to "return the door to its true owner".

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