Brit imprisoned in Iraq ‘asked tour guide if he could take pottery as a souvenir’



Jim Fitton was jailed for 15 years under Iraqi antiquities laws (Picture: Reuters/PA)


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Jim Fitton was jailed for 15 years under Iraqi antiquities laws (Picture: Reuters/PA)

The family of a retired British geologist jailed in Iraq for trying to bring home broken pottery have been ‘shattered’ by his 15-year sentence, saying it amounted to a death sentence.

Jim Fitton, 66, from Bath, was arrested at Baghdad airport on March 20 after recovering 12 stones and shards during a visit to an ancient site in Eridu.

Iraqi officials said the objects could be considered archaeological pieces because they are over 200 years old.

Mr Fitton insisted he had no idea he was breaking the law and his family said he had checked with an experienced tourist guide if he could take them as souvenirs.

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Monday after being found guilty of smuggling under Iraqi antiquities laws.

His daughter Leila Fitton told Sky News her father was ‘shocked’ by the tariff but said he was ‘staying strong’.

Speaking through tears, she added, “That’s a life sentence at his age, isn’t it?”

“I feel so helpless. We’ve had so much support – emails, calls, messages from all over the world. It’s been overwhelming, because I wish I knew what to do.



Volker Waldmann, right, and Jim Fitton, centre, are handcuffed as they walk into a courtroom escorted by police (Picture: AP)


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Volker Waldmann, right, and Jim Fitton, centre, are handcuffed as they walk into a courtroom escorted by police (Picture: AP)



Mr Fitton pictured with his wife and two children Joshua and Leila (Picture: Fitton Family/SWNS)


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Mr Fitton pictured with his wife and two children Joshua and Leila (Picture: Fitton Family/SWNS)

Her husband, Sam Tasker, has denounced the UK government for what he called their “complete lack of action in this matter to date”.

He said: “We are absolutely overwhelmed by this news. For a man Jim’s age, 15 years in an Iraqi prison is a death sentence.

“Especially for such a petty and questionable crime, a crime that Jim was not even aware of when he committed it.”

Mr Tasker told Sky News his father-in-law ‘asked if he could take [the items] memorial house.

He said he “was accompanied by a tour guide with over 40 years of experience, a representative of the Iraqi tourist board and a policeman and none of them recorded of protests”.

Mr Tasker continued: “We are completely heartbroken that our own efforts, strong legal defense and constant campaigning, have led to this result.

“We appeal and will continue to fight for Jim’s freedom, and urge the government to support us in every way possible and open channels of communication with us at a higher level.”



Mr Fitton's family said the prison sentence amounted to


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Mr Fitton’s family said the prison sentence amounted to ‘a death sentence’ (Picture: AP)

Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, said: ‘This is clearly a devastating outcome for Jim and his family.

“There is no choice left but for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to intervene at ministerial level.”

“The Minister of Foreign Affairs must make representations to the Iraqi government.

‘This is yet another example of the UK government presiding over the case of a UK national in trouble overseas and they failed to act.’

Mrs. Hobhouse should raise the matter urgently.

During the same hearing, German tourist Volker Waldmann, who was arrested alongside Mr Fitton, was found to have no criminal intent in the case and will be released.

Mr Fitton’s conviction appears to have shocked members of the court, including his lawyer.

“I thought the worst-case scenario would be a year, with suspension,” Mr Fitton’s attorney, Thair Soud, told The Associated Press in a visibly shocked state.

Judge Jabir Abd Jabir found that by collecting the items and intending to transport them out of the country, Mr Fitton had the criminal intent to smuggle them.

The case has captured international attention at a time when Iraq hopes to boost its nascent tourism sector.

A petition launched by his family has garnered more than 100,000 signatures.

Mr Waldman’s defense team said the German tourist was carrying two pieces for Fitton but did not retrieve them from the site.

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