British geologist facing death penalty in Iraq “unaware” he broke law

British geologist facing death penalty in Iraq "unaware" he broke law Credit: Twitter @Wera_Hobhouse

A retired British geologist, who is facing the death penalty in Iraq after being accused of smuggling historic items out of Iraq, has claimed he did not know he was breaking the law. 

Sixty-six year-old Jim Fitton took 12 stones and shards of broken pottery from an archaeological site in Eridu Iraq, for which he is now facing the death penalty, as reported by The Independent.

“Jim Fitton, previously of Bath is facing the death penalty in Iraq. The family’s lawyer have said that an intervention from the Foreign Office is needed h or they have refused to intervene. Please share and sign the petition so we can get Jim home safely,” read a tweet posted by MP Wera Hobhouse.

Credit: Twitter @Wera_Hobhouse

Appearing in a court in Baghdad, Jim Fitton told a panel of three judges that he was unaware that his actions were criminal.

He admitted to knowing that the fragments were ancient but stated “at the time didn’t know about Iraqi laws,” or that taking the pieces was prohibited.

Fitton stressed his point by stating “there were no fences no guards or signage”, and had no intention of selling the fragments, simply enjoying collecting items of such a nature due to his former job.

The head judge, Jaber Abdel Jabir responded by stating: “These places, in name and by definition, are ancient sites. One doesn’t have to say it is forbidden.”

Fitton countered the statement by insisting that some of the shards were “no larger than my fingernail”, with the judge answering: “Size doesn’t matter.”

Fitton was detained at Baghdad airport, when customs officials found the 12 pottery shards. The charge he is accused of, under Iraqi law, states, “whoever exported or intended to export, deliberately, an antiquity, from Iraq, shall be punishable with execution”.

A campaign to free him has so far collected around 95,000 signatures just days after being launched by his family. 


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Written by

Joshua Manning

Originally from the UK, Joshua is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]

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