British father Jim Fitton is being held in Iraq on smuggling charges during his first visit to the country for a geology and archeology tour over allegations he stole artifacts as souvenirs
Image: Family Handout/PA Wire)
A British father of two faces the death penalty in Iraq for collecting souvenirs during a geology tour.
Jim Fitton, 66, is being held in Iraq on smuggling charges during his first visit to the country for a geology and archeology tour.
The retired geologist appeared for the first time in a Baghdad court alongside German national Volker Waldmann on Sunday, but the expected trial did not take place and was postponed until next Sunday to give the defense more time to present evidence.
Fitton’s son-in-law Sam, 27, said the family, who are originally from Bath, are pleased the court appears to be taking the matter seriously.
He said: “We had the first hearing on Sunday, where both charges were read and cross-examination took place – but the rest of the trial has been postponed until next week so that we can allow more evidence for Jim’s defence.
“It’s hard to say it’s good news – we’ve been optimistic and have been disappointed throughout this process.
“But we are certainly not disappointed with what happened yesterday – Jim had an opportunity to defend himself and the court appears to be taking him seriously.”
At the preliminary hearing on Sunday 15th, Mr Fitton told judges he did not act with criminal intent after collecting 12 stones as he said he “suspected” the items he collected to be ancient fragments, local accounts reveal.
OAP also collected shards of broken pottery when visiting a site in Eridu, southeast Iraq, and told the court, “I didn’t know anything about Iraqi law at the time” or that taking the shards was not allowed.
Given his previous occupation, the court heard that Fitton had a habit of collecting such fragments as a hobby and had no intention of reselling them.
Responding to his claims, Chief Justice Jaber Abdel Jabir said, “These sites are ancient sites by name and definition.
“You don’t have to say it’s forbidden.”
Both Waldmann and Fitton could face the death penalty for their actions, but legal experts say that’s unlikely.
The case has sparked interest in the UK and was raised by Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath, during an Urgent Questions session in the House of Commons last week.
Wera said in a statement: “Jim Fitton may face the death penalty.
“I urge the Minister to do everything possible to stop this nightmare before it turns into a tragedy.”
“I’m afraid the government gives the impression that they are not particularly interested or concerned – engagement by ministers has been slow.”
Jim Fitton currently resides in Malaysia with his wife Sarija. His children – Joshua and Leila, and Leila’s husband Sam Tasker – have submitted a petition to urge the UK government to back the case, which has garnered over 272,100 signatures.
The family’s petition can be found here.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/brit-facing-death-penalty-collecting-26978545 Brit faces death penalty for collecting souvenirs 'didn't know he broke the law' - World News