Hollywood actor George Clooney’s new wife, human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney, made an impassioned plea on Wednesday for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens, in what Greeks hope may inject new energy into their national campaign.
The Lebanese-born Briton, part of a legal team advising the Greek government on its bid to secure the return of the sculptures from Britain, has sparked a media frenzy during her three-day visit to the Greek capital that included meetings with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
Also called the Elgin Marbles, the treasures comprising roughly half the 160-meter-long frieze on the Parthenon are now housed in the British Museum, which refuses to give them back despite Greek accusations their removal was an act of vandalism.
Clooney told a news conference at the Acropolis Museum she hoped for an amicable settlement that would allow the world to enjoy the sculptures re-united in their home.
“We’re talking here about an injustice that has persisted for too long,” she said.
“A horseman has his head in Athens and his body in London. The Greek god Poseidon has his torso separated between Greece and the UK. This means nobody can celebrate the marbles united in the place that they come from.”
Clooney, who married last month in a glitzy, star-studded wedding in Venice, arrived in Athens on Monday to a horde of cameras and gushing praise in Greek newspapers for an “Amal hurricane” to win back the national treasures.
Clooney has previously represented Ukrainian former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko at the European Court of Human Rights and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in extradition proceedings.
Greece has stepped up its campaign to get the Marbles back since it opened the glass-and-steel museum at the foot of the Acropolis in 2009, which it said voids arguments that Athens lacks a suitable place to preserve them.
The sculptures were removed in 1801 by Thomas Bruce, seventh Earl of Elgin and British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, who then sold it to the British government.
The British Museum, which was given the Marbles “in perpetuity” has refused to return them on the grounds they were acquired by Elgin through a legitimate contract with the Ottoman Empire that then ruled Greece.
It also argues its Marbles are in better condition than those that were left behind, which have suffered from pollution.
Earlier this year, George Clooney also weighed in on the issue, saying that returning the Marbles to Greece was the “right thing to do”. Amal Clooney was circumspect when asked if she would encourage her husband to more actively support the cause.
“I hope that even at this very early stage of marriage I’m wise enough to know that it’s up to my husband which causes he chooses to support,” she said with a smile.