Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali receives the crown from Sirak Asfaw,

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali on Thursday received a priceless 18th-century crown that a former refugee had kept hidden in his apartment in the Netherlands for two decades.

The handover took place at a ceremony in the capital, Addis Ababa, attended by Sigrid Kaag, the Dutch minister for foreign trade and development cooperation and Sirak Asfaw, the one-time refugee who is now a Dutch citizen.

Asfaw fled Ethiopia during the late 1970s during the so-called “Red Terror” purges.

He found the gilded crown — which features images of Christ and the Twelve Apostles — in 1998 in a suitcase left behind by a visitor.

READ ALSO  Government officials arrested in Ethiopia over violence

It had “disappeared” from the Holy Trinity Church in Cheleqot, a village in northern Ethiopia, the Dutch government said in a statement Thursday.

Sigrid Kaag, the Dutch minister for foreign trade hands over the crown to PM Abiy Ahmed Ali in Addis

Sirak assumed the crown had been stolen but worried it would “just disappear again” if he returned it to Ethiopia’s leaders, so he kept it in his apartment in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam, he told AFP last year.

Only after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018 did Sirak feel comfortable handing it over.

He then contacted Arthur Brand, a renowned Dutch art detective, who brought the story to the Dutch government’s attention.

READ ALSO  Over 46,000 COVID-19 cases in Ethiopia

“We’re honoured and delighted to have been able to facilitate the rightful return,” Kaag, the Dutch minister, said in a statement Thursday.

Abiy thanked the Dutch government for organising the artefact’s return, according to a report from state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate, which noted that the crown “is thought to be one of just 20 in existence”.

By Thursday afternoon, the crown was on display at Ethiopia’s National Museum.