Jim Fitton: Retired British Geologist Facing Death Penalty in Iraq for ‘Smuggling Broken Ceramics’

A retired British geologist is facing the death penalty in Iraq after being arrested at the airport over shards of broken pottery, according to his family.

Jim Fitton is due to stand trial in May on charges of trying to smuggle historic artifacts out of the country, they said.

The 66-year-old picked up broken pottery shards – after being assured they were of no value – on a visit to a historic site, according to a petition asking the UK government to help facilitate his release.

The retired geologist – who lives in Malaysia – was arrested while trying to return home from his geology and archeology trip in Iraq earlier this year.

“The legal punishment for his alleged crime is execution,” his family said.

Wera Hobhouse, the Liberal Democrat MP who represents family members in Bath, said Fitton’s case was “deeply concerning” and urged the British government to intervene.

Fitton with his wife Sarijah and daughter Leila


The British detainee’s children – Joshua and Leila – and Leila’s husband, Sam Tasker, launched the petition asking for the same.

“During the tour, our father visited historic sites around Iraq, where his tour group found stone fragments and broken pottery shards in piles on the ground,” he said.

“These fragments were in the open, unprotected and without signs warning against removal.


“Tour leaders also collected the fragments as souvenirs at the site in Eridu. Tour members were told this would not be a problem as the broken fragments had no economic or historical value.”

He added: “We think our father can be tried in the week starting May 8, after Eid in Iraq.

“We have days to save him before sentencing and we need the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help by intervening in his case now.

“Our lawyer has drafted a proposal for the shelving of the case and the immediate repatriation of our father, which requires the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take to the Iraqi judiciary.”

Mr. Tasker, in a statement, explained: “Jim used to bring home little souvenirs from his travels to remember the journey and share his experiences with us.

“For him, this was no more meaningful than bringing home a pebble from the beach to remember a special family vacation. Items are widely accepted as worthless.

“This is the offense that now sees my father-in-law facing a possible death sentence under Article 41 of Iraqi Artifacts Act No. 55 of 2002.”

Mr. Tasker said that Mr. Fitton and a German man on the trip were arrested after the group’s luggage was checked in at the airport, with 12 fragments that were said to have been recovered from their luggage.

The incident took place on March 20 and a serious illness in the group’s tour guide was also reported.

Tasker is a constituent of Hobhouse, who raised the case in the House of Commons and urged ministers to answer the “incredibly serious” question.

“The situation around Jim Fitton and his German colleague is deeply concerning and my thoughts are with them and their families during this difficult time. It’s impossible to imagine the worry and worry that Jim and his family are going through,” she said.

“It is clear from speaking to Jim’s family that he would not intentionally disrespect or appropriate the region’s rich and fascinating culture.

“I have written to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, contacted the consulate’s support services and contacted the minister’s office directly, but so far the response has been disappointing.

“Jim’s lawyer has warned that British government intervention will make a difference in this case. That’s why I’m asking the government to intervene to make Jim’s release more likely.

“I am committed to doing everything I can working with the government to secure the release of Jim, who was so questionably detained in Iraq. Jim and his German counterpart must be returned safely to their families.”

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are providing consular support to a British citizen in Iraq and we are in contact with the local authorities.”

Foreign Minister Amanda Milling said in a letter to Hobhouse on Thursday: “We understand the urgency of the case and have already raised our concerns with the Iraqi authorities about the possible imposition of the death penalty in the Fitton case and the opposition. from UK. to the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle”.

Additional reports by PA

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