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18 Jun 14

Bosnia Prosecutors Probe Mystery of Closed Museum

Bosnian investigators have entered the premises of the National Museum in Sarajevo on a mission to discover why the oldest institution of its kind in the country has been closed for two years.

Denis Dzidic
BIRN Sarajevo

The Bosnian prosecution on Tuesday said it had started a search of the National Museum in Sarajevo to review the exhibits and documentation and find out why it has been shut since October 2012.

“These activities are being done to review the situation in this institution, which carries cultural and historical documents which are of immense importance for Bosnia and Herzegovina,” the prosecution said.

“Prosecutors will analyse documents and determine whether there are elements of criminal responsibility of certain individuals for this situation, which threatens the cultural and historical heritage of our country,” it added.

The National Museum has existed for over 120 years, and contains a treasure trove of items from throughout the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

National Museum chief Adnan Busuladzic told BIRN he was thrilled that 20 months after the museum closed, there was finally hope that something might happen.

“I am overjoyed. I have wanted this to happen for long and finally there is hope we can get to the bottom of why our institution is closed,” he said.

He said workers have not received salaries or healthcare for 30 months owing to the undefined status of the National Museum.

Several cultural institutions in Bosnia are at the centre of a tussle over whether the Bosnian state or the country's two entities should pay for them.

“If the politicians had their way, we wouldn’t get paid for the next 330 months either," he said. "But, although the Museum is closed, we are still working. Nothing has been damaged and all the exhibits are being taken care of. We are hoping this is the first step towards finding a final solution.”

Asked whether prosecutors would actually name the person responsible for the plight of the Museum, Busuladzic sounded unsure.

“If we lived in a normal country, I would say yes. We are currently a state-level institution and the Ministry in charge is the Ministry of Civil affairs.

"However, if we are no longer be a state-level institution, then the Federation Ministry of Culture and Sports must finance us, or even the Cantonal ministry," he added, referring to the cantons that comprise that Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"Those are the persons responsible. However, in Bosnia you can never know if there will be political games. I just pray that there won’t be,” Busuladzic said.

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