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Briton facing death penalty for collecting broken pottery 'did not know it broke law'

Retired British geologist facing the death penalty for trying to smuggle artifacts out of Iraq, has admitted to a court that he didn’t know he was breaking the law.

Jim Fitton (66) collected 12 stones as souvenirs from Eridu, in the country’s southeast, as part of an organized geology and archaeology trip.

He wore a yellow uniform and appeared alongside Volker Waldmann (a German tourist) before a panel at a Baghdad court.

Since the items were discovered in their bags on the 20th March, as the tour group was about to depart Baghdad, they have been kept in the country.


The men claimed that they did not intend to commit criminal acts.

Fitton stated that he believed the items he had collected were ancient fragments. He also said that at the time he didn’t know anything about Iraqi laws or that taking the shards wasn’t allowed.

He said that there were no signs or guards at the locations.

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Jaber Abdel Jabir was the head judge. He stated: “These sites, by name and definition, are ancient. It doesn’t necessarily have to be forbidden.

Fitton claimed that some of the shards were no larger than my fingernail, but the head judge replied: “Size doesn’t matter.”

Image: Fitton & Volker Waldmann in front of the Baghdad courtroom. Pic: AP

The court was informed that Fitton had been collecting these fragments as a hobby, and that he did not intend to sell them.

Waldmann claimed that the items in his possession weren’t his, and were given by Fitton for him to carry.

Under Iraqi law, both men could be sentenced to death.

Fitton lives with Sarijah, his wife. Leila Fitton, his 31-year-old daughter, and Sam Tasker, her husband are based in Bath.

Together with Fitton’s son Joshua, their petition asking for UK ministers intervention to free the geologist has more than 270,000 signatures.

Image Fitton and his wife Sarijah with their two children Joshua, Leila and Leila who are fighting for his freedom

Last week, the case was also brought up in the Commons.

James Cleverly, Foreign Office minister, stated that the British ambassador to Iraq raised the matter four times with local authorities.


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