Father-of-two Jim Fitton, 66, was arrested on suspicion of smuggling during his first visit to Iraq for an archeology and geology tour
Image: Fitton Family / SWNS)
A Briton has been sentenced to 15 years in Iraq after a court found him guilty of smuggling artifacts out of the country.
An Iraqi court has sentenced father-of-two Jim Fitton, 66, to 15 years in prison for smuggling.
Mr Fitton was facing the death penalty for collecting souvenirs during a geology and archeology tour on his first visit to the country.
He appeared for the first time in a Baghdad court alongside German citizen Volker Waldmann in mid-May, but the expected trial did not take place and was postponed.
Fitton’s son-in-law Sam, 27, said at the time that the family, who are originally from Bath, were delighted that the court appeared to be taking Mr Fritton’s case and defense 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 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.”
During 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 knew nothing about Iraqi law at the time” or that taking the shards was not allowed.
Given his previous profession, 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.”
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https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/breaking-brit-jailed-15-years-27156113 Briton sentenced to 15 years in Iraq for smuggling artifacts out of country - World News