Uruguay appeals ruling ordering sale of eagle sculpture from sunken Nazi battleship

A photo from Feb 13, 2006, showing a man posing with the eagle sculpture, which had adorned the stern of World War II German battleship Admiral Graf Spee. PHOTO: AFP/ ALFREDO ETCHEGARAY

MONTEVIDEO (AFP) - Uruguay has appealed a ruling ordering it to sell a bronze eagle from a sunken World War II-era German destroyer found off Montevideo 16 years ago, government sources told AFP on Wednesday (Feb 23).

"The appeal was filed this week," Defence Ministry sources said.

The filing would be a final attempt by the government to seek a reversal to a 2019 ruling that the relic must be sold - a decision affirmed in a second judgment by the Supreme Court last December.

The more than 300kg, 2m-tall bird, which is gripping a Nazi swastika in its talons, adorned the stern of the Admiral Graf Spee, a battleship involved in one of the first naval skirmishes of World War II.

The sculpture was found in 2006 after a 10-year hunt in the River Plate off Montevideo.

The Graf Spee's captain, Hans Langsdorff, had scuttled the destroyer on December 17, 1939, following the Battle of the River Plate.

The salvage team had signed a deal with the Uruguayan navy establishing that 50 per cent of the sale of objects found in the search would become public property and the other 50 per cent would go to the search's backers.

Since its discovery, the sculpture - seen as likely to fetch a handsome sum at auction - has been kept in a navy warehouse.

When the sale did not materialise, brother financiers Alfredo and Felipe Etchegaray and diver Hector Bado - who died in 2017 - sued the state of Uruguay for breach of contract.

Litigation could continue for several more months following the government's appeal.

The artefact's potential sale has ruffled feathers in the German government, which fears the sculpture could be used to drum up Nazi support.

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