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Nearly 100,000 back campaign to free British geologist facing death penalty in Iraq

Tens of thousands have supported a campaign to free a British geologist who was accused of smuggling and is now facing death in Iraq.

Supporters say that pressure is mounting on the government for urgent action to free Jim Fitton (66), father-of-2 who “lives in the balance”.

A petition that was launched by his family has attracted over 95,000 signatures within days.

His daughter Leila Tasker and Sam Tasker, both from Bath in Somerset, also announced that his sentencing will coincide with their long-planned celebration of their marriage, which was held last summer amid coronavirus restrictions.

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They stated that “There is no good time for such a thing to happen.” However, we are just one week away of what should be our happiest day. It’s the culmination more than two years worth of planning and has been transformed into an absolute living nightmare.

Fitton was a geologist in oil and gas companies throughout his career. He now lives with Sarijah, his wife, in Malaysia.

COVID travel rules mean Mr Fitton has not been seen by his daughter in more than two years.

More information about Bath

After allegedly trying to smuggle historical artifacts out of Iraq, Mr Fitton was detained for five weeks in Iraq.

According to his family, Mr. Fitton took home stones and pieces of broken pottery from Eridu in the country’s southeast as souvenirs as part of an organized geology and archaeology trip.

They added that the items were artifacts under Iraqi law. The charge against Mr Fitton is “whoever exported or planned to export, intentionally, an antiquity from Iraq shall be punished with execution”.

Image Mr Fitton pictured here with his wife Sarijah, and his daughter Leila. He has described his situation as a ‘living nightmare’

Sentence will be given in the week commencing 8 May in connection to the March incident.

His family called the response to his petition “unbelievable” and added that Jim really appreciated the support of old colleagues, good friends, and complete strangers, who did not allow this to go unnoticed.

“We will fight on, but we’ll keep you in our sights.”

According to the family, their lawyer had drafted a proposal to close the case before trial under Iraqi law. However, they need the Foreign Office “to put their weight behind it and endorse it” in order to secure a high-level meeting of judicial officials in the country.

Wera Hobhouse is a Liberal Democrat MP from Bath. He has brought his case to the attention of ministers in Parliament.

She stated that she was pressing the Foreign Office for assistance, but they continue to refuse.

“I don’t understand why the Foreign Office doesn’t intervene when Jim is in danger.”

She said, “The Foreign Office must make every effort to bring Jim home to his family.”

Image A father-of-two, Joshua and Leila, are fighting for his freedom

The Foreign Office stated that it provides consular support and is in touch with local authorities.

In a letter to Ms. Hobhouse last week, Amanda Milling, Foreign Office minister, stated that she understood the urgency of this case. She also said that “We have already raised our concerns to the Iraqi authorities about the possibility of Mr Fitton being executed as well as the UK’s opposition of the death penalty under any circumstances.”

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