British police arrested a 66-year-old man in connection with part of a bronze statue of Saddam Hussein, a buttock, was illegally brought over from Iraq after the war.
He was held on suspicion of breaching the 2003 Iraq Sanctions Order, which bans dealing in “illegally removed Iraqi cultural property”, including items of archaeological, historical, cultural, or religious importance.
Derbyshire Police in northern central England said the unnamed man has been released on bail pending further inquiries.
The two-foot (0.6-metre) piece of metal had been picked up in Baghdad by a former soldier from Britain’s elite SAS regiment, Nigel “Spud” Ely, after he witnessed US marines drag the statue down following the fall of the Iraqi leader.
He originally put it up for auction in Britain last year, but it failed to reach its reserve price of £250,000 (300,000 euros, $390,000).
Ely has been interviewed by police about the statue, and warned that if he sold or defaced the bronze buttock he could face prosecution, but he expressed shock at Thursday’s arrest of the other man.
The unnamed suspect is thought to be connected to a company trying to find a buyer for the souvenir.
“This is like having a chunk of the Berlin Wall — it’s part of history but it’s not cultural property,” said Ely, 52.
He said that US marines gave it to him at a time when Baghdad was under US control, adding: “How can it be classed as cultural property when it was put up by the biggest tyrant since Attila the Hun?”