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Italy returns stolen Banksy to France on Bastille Day

ROME (AP) — Italy on Tuesday returned to France a stolen artwork by British artist Banksy that was painted as a tribute to the victims of the 2015 Paris attacks at the Bataclan music hall. The chief prosecutor in charge of the investigation, Michele Renzo, told the French ambassador that it was significant that the handover was occurring on Bastille Day, given the need to continue fighting for all freedoms.

“This door brings our minds back to the memory of the tragic and distressing event, and tells us that for liberty, for our individual liberties, we will always have to fight,” Renzo said at a ceremony in the French Embassy, where the artwork was being displayed for the holiday.

French officials last year had announced the theft of the piece, a black image appearing to depict a person mourning that was painted on one of the Bataclan’s emergency exit doors. Ninety people were killed at the Bataclan on Nov. 13, 2015, when Islamic extremists invaded the music hall, one of several targets that night in which a total of 130 people died.

Italian authorities had announced last month that they had discovered the painted door in an attic in a country home in Abruzzo. French Ambassador Christian Masset said the door was a “witness” to the attack but also an escape route.

“Through this door which was an emergency exit, many people managed to escape,” he said. “Thanks to this door more lives were saved.” Standing next to the piece after it was unveiled, Renzo said Italy was proud to return the painting to its rightful owners.

“Recovering this symbol, handing it back to the public’s emotion was for us a commitment and today is a great honor,” said Renzo, chief prosecutor in L'Aquila.

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