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Swedish appeals court rules space rock should stay with the owner of the property where it landed

STOCKHOLM (AP) — A Swedish land owner won a legal battle Thursday to keep a 14-kilogram (31-pound) meteorite when an appeals court ruled that such rocks should be considered “immovable property" and part of the land where they are found.

The property on which the meteorite landed contains iron and the meteorite is made of iron. Therefore, it ”cannot be easily separated from what is usually regarded as (immovable) property," the Svea Court of Appeals ruled.

On Nov. 7, 2020, an iron meteorite fell on a private property in Uppland, north of Stockholm. In December of that year, two geologists found it and eventually handed it over to the Swedish Museum of Natural History in the Swedish capital.

Swedish news agency TT said the owner of the private land where it was found, Johan Benzelstierna von Engeström, appealed a December 2022 ruling by the Uppsala district court. That ruling gave the rock's finders Andreas Forsberg and Anders Zetterqvist the right to the stone because the meteorite was not part of the property, and was a movable property without an owner.

On Thursday, the appeals court said the iron meteorite “is made up of substances that are already present in the earth’s surface." Judge Robert Green said that meteorites or space rocks should be considered “part of immovable property just like other stones, even though it may intuitively feel like it is something foreign to the earth.”

A Swedish law known as ‘Allemansraetten,’ may give everyone the freedom to roam freely in Sweden on the condition that nature and the animals are respected but it “does not give anyone the right to take a meteorite from someone else’s land," the Svea court said.

The finders also had claimed there was an agreement allowing them to take the meteorite. However, the appeals court said there was no evidence of such a deal. It wasn't immediately clear whether the geologists would appeal to Sweden’s Supreme Court.

The Associated Press