Penalties for harming antiquities

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Cabinet approves urban heritage law

JEDDAH – The Council of Ministers on Monday approved a landmark law to protect its antiquities and heritage, as well as to give the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) powers to handle them.

Punitive measures, including jail and fine, will be taken against those who encroach on national monuments and antiquities.

The weekly session of the Council of Ministers, chaired by Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz, deputy premier and minister of defense, approved the law on antiquities, museums and urban heritage.

In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency following the session, Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Abdulaziz Khoja said that the law grants SCTA jurisdiction over deciding what will be recorded as archaeological monuments and heritage.

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The commission will register antiquities and heritage sites and items after the state approved their national, historical, cultural or artistic importance, as well as the need to preserve, maintain and showcase them. According to the law, all movable and immovable antiquities in the Kingdom or within its sovereign marine areas or legal jurisdiction will be the state’s property.

However, there will be an exemption for immovable antiquities of private owners, movable antiquities registered with SCTA by their owners, and those antiquities that the SCTA decides not to register. The regulations state that anyone having a movable antique should submit it to the SCTA for registration within two years from the day when this law comes into force.

Dr. Khoja said those who violate the provisions of the law by encroaching on a heritage site, or carrying out surveys or excavation for antiquities without license will be given jail terms ranging from one month to one year, or a fine of not less than SR10,000 and not more than SR100,000 or of both.

Addressing the session, the Crown Prince underlined the need for enforcing the directives of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to provide all facilities for Umrah pilgrims and visitors to the two holy mosques during Ramadan.

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The King has directed all the concerned agencies to exert more efforts so as to enable Umrah pilgrims to perform their rituals in ease and comfort during the peak Umrah season in Ramadan, which is expected to begin on Saturday.

Dr. Khoja said the Cabinet thanked King Abdullah for his order to establish 11 world-class sport stadiums. This comes as an extension of the King’s keenness and interest in supporting sports and the youth as well as in achieving balanced development for the Kingdom’s all regions.

The Cabinet described Jeddah Historical Area’s inclusion in the UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list as a recognition of the old city’s cultural value and unique model with its distinguished urban heritage.

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