Updated: Monday, 09 December 2013 02:25 | By Agence France-Presse

Hopi masks sale to 'probably' go ahead despite US efforts

A Paris auction of sacred objects from the Hopi and San Carlos Apache Native American tribes will "probably" go ahead despite US objections, the auctioneer said on Sunday.

Hopi masks sale to 'probably' go ahead despite US efforts

Kachina masks which will be auctioned on December 9, 2013 on display in Paris on November 29, 2013.

A number of ceremonial masks and head-dresses are due to go under the hammer at the EVE auction house on Monday after the failure of a legal challenge by advocacy group Survival International.

The US embassy in Paris on Saturday sent a letter requesting a last-minute delay of the sale to determine if the tribes have a claim to recover the objects.

Auctioneer Alain Leroy told AFP on Sunday that he had received the letter, adding: "I am reserving my answer for the person who sent it, out of courtesy."

Pressed on whether the sale would go ahead, he said "probably".

Leroy refused to make any further comment but noted that a court decision had already been made to allow the sale.

A Paris court on Friday dismissed an attempt to block the auction, with a judge ruling there was no legal basis for preventing it despite "moral and philosophical" considerations.

The US embassy said the objects being offered for sale were of great importance to the Arizona-based Hopi and San Carlos Apache peoples and should not be offered for sale "precipitously and in the absence of consultation with the two tribes".

The battle is a rerun of one earlier this year in which French firm Neret-Minet ignored international appeals to halt the sale of some 70 masks that eventually fetched around 930,000 euros ($1.3 million).

That auction was decried as sacrilege by activists including Hollywood legend Robert Redford.

The sale of sacred Native American artefacts has been outlawed in the United States since 1990 but there is no equivalent legislation in France.

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