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Profaning the Sacred in Bali

Bali Police Uncover Another Cache of Stolen Sacred Objects.

(10/18/2010) Following the September arrest of Italian Roberto Gamba for his involvement in a theft ring charged with stealing sacred objects from Balinese temples, Bali police raided a warehouse on Thursday, October 14, 2010 and uncovered another cache of 16 "pratima". The warehouse, apparently abandoned in haste by its owner, is located on Jalan Merta Nadi in Kerobokan, Bali.

Kompas.com reports that the lasted collection, allegedly owned by a Frenchman, Mr. Kino, was comprised of a 16 statues made up of a Garuda (1), mythical lions (11), gods/Goddesses (2), deer heads (2) and a collection of ancient Chinese coins.

Gede Sugianyar Dwi Putra, the spokesman for the Bali police, said, "when we found them the sacred items were ready for shipment." Police believe the priceless items were destined for export and eventual sale to collectors abroad. Police believe that Kino may have left the country following the arrest of Gamba on September 2, 2010, and have placed the Frenchman on the "most wanted" list of fugitives.

Police are now cooperating with archaeologists to determine the authenticity of the objects while asking religious communities across Bali to come forward and identify any objects which may have been stolen from local temples.

Gamba, who was arrested with hundreds of pratima reportedly provided information that led police to Kino’s warehouse.

The Regent of Gianyar. Tjokorda Oka Artha Sukawati visited police shortly after the latest raid to see if the recovered items originated from one of a number of temples plagued by thefts over recent months.

The Regent told Nusa Bali; "It happened that in a single night I was called to four different pura that had been robbed of their ‘pratima.'" Tjokorda told the press that around 10 temples in his regency have been affected by thefts. He has called on the people of Gianyar to activate regular patrols of temples to prevent future robberies.

Tjokorda, popularly known as "Tjok Ace." Has expressed his profound disappointment that those arrested by police in the theft include many Balinese, adding: "I am very saddened by this, when, in fact, they (the thieves) know the sacredness of pratima. Economically these items are of little value, but the reverence in which they are held by the Balinese cannot be measure in rupiah."

Presently 7 people are in custody, accused of stealing or dealing in "pratima." Among the seven is only one non-Balinese, Italian Roberto Gamba. The remaining 6 men are I Komang Oka Sukaya, I Gusti Putu Oka Riyadi (also known as Gung Aji Tabanan), I Wayan Eka Putra (also known as Eka, Sastra or Surung), Komang Gede Pariana (also know as Apel or Koko), I Gusti Agung Komang Suardika (also know as Komang Enok) , I Gusti Lanang Sidemen and Wayan Eka Putra.

Anger over the thefts, seen by many devout Balinese Hindus as desecration of their religion, has prompted calls for the men to be tried as cultural terrorists deserving the harshest punishments possible under the law.

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