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Paris torture instruments auction suspended after protests

Collection Fermand Meyssonnier/Etude Cornette de Saint Cyr

An auction of instruments of torture due to take place in Paris on Tuesday has been cancelled after protests from France’s culture minister and human rights campaigners.

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The planned sale was organised on behalf of the descendants of a former French public executioner, Fernand Meyssonnier, who died in 2008 at the age of 77.

As well as carrying out 198 executions in Algeria between 1957 and 1962, Meyssonnier amassed a comprehensive collection of 350 tools of torture and documents relating to punishment down the ages.

It included a chastity belt, an iron maiden, a hangman’s rope and a choke pear, which was placed in one of the victim’s orifices either to gag them or to inflict pain.

On Wednesday a number of human rights groups protested at the planned sale, describing at as “shocking and contrary to all morality”.

“Given the emotion aroused by this auction, we have decided to suspend it so that the interested parties can examine the real contents of this collection calmly,” auctioneer Bertrand Cornette de Saint Cyr said Saturday.

But the auction house, Cornette de Saint Cyr, insists that it was perfectly legal.

The decision comes after Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand’s Friday call for it to be called off.

“The collection in question has more to do with morbidity and barbarity than culture and its provenance raises some painful historical questions, Mitterrand said in a statement.

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