LONDON: Children of a British man facing the death penalty in Iraq after being accused of trying to smuggle pottery out of the country have urged the UK government to intervene in his case.
Baghdad airport authorities detained 66-year-old Jim Fitton, who had been on his first visit to Iraq as part of an archaeology and geology tour, after recovering 12 shards of stone and broken pottery from his luggage.
Fitton’s children Joshua and Leila, and her husband Sam Tasker, who are pressing the UK to act, told the Daily Telegraph that their father’s guide said there would be “no issue” taking the shards.
They said: “Whilst on the tour, our father visited historical sites around Iraq, where his tour group found fragments of stones and shards of broken pottery in piles on the ground. These fragments were in the open, unguarded and with no signage warning against removal.
“Tour leaders also collected the shards as souvenirs at the site in Eridu. Tour members were told this would not be an issue, as the broken shards had no economic or historical value.”
But upon Fitton’s arrest, authorities sent the shards off to the National Museum of Iraq where an analysis determined that they were manmade objects more than 200 years old, deeming them artefacts of cultural significance and exposing him to the death penalty.
Tasker said it was “obvious there was no criminal intent.” The family believe Fitton’s trial may commence after Eid.
A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesman told the Telegraph: “We are providing consular support to a British national in Iraq and are in contact with the local authorities.
“As we’re aware, the Embassy on the ground have been visiting once a week and they and the lawyer are satisfied he’s being humanely treated right, which is the first tick in the box.”