According to his family, a British retired geologist will be released from an Iraqi prison after his conviction for attempted artefact-smuggling was overturned.
Jim Fitton was sentenced to 15 years for collecting 12 stones and pieces of broken pottery from an Eridu trip.
In March, the 66-year old was arrested at Baghdad Airport after broken pottery was discovered in his luggage.
Fitton was taking part in an organized geology and archaeology trip and his family claimed that he had requested an experienced guide to allow him to take the objects home.
Later, Iraqi officials claimed that the objects could be considered archaeological pieces because they were older than 200 years.
Fitton claimed he “suspected” the items were ancient fragments, but said that there was no signage on the site or any information to inform him that it was illegal to take them.
After his arrest, he was initially detained at an airport detention center. He has been in an Iraqi jail since the second week in June.
Volker Waldmann, a German tourist, was arrested along with him. He was later released after he stated that the fragments in his luggage were given to him to carry by Mr Fitton.
With his wife Sarijah, Mr Fitton resides in Malaysia. Leila Fitton, his 31-year-old daughter, and Sam Tasker, her husband are based in Bath.
After hearing that he had been cleared, they said they were “over the moon”.
27-year-old Mr Tasker said in a statement that Leila Josh, Sarijah, and I were smiling without irony for the first time since March 20th.
“We were informed this morning by the appeals court that they had quashed the verdict of Felony Court. This was to recognize Jim’s innocence and process his immediate release from a Baghdad 15-year sentence.
“We are aware that this is happening. He is currently in prison, but will be released soon.
“Until he returns home, we won’t be giving any interviews to the media or going into detail about the situation. We don’t want him to anger the wrong people or put him at risk.
“Once he’s home, we will celebrate, take some time to heal as a family and be happy to share the story with anyone who will listen.
Although the timeframe is still unclear, Mr Tasker stated that the family “expect” him to return home by the end the week.
Liberal Democrat MP for Bath Wera Hobhouse welcomed the “fantastic developments”.
She said, “It is difficult to imagine the stress Jim and his family have experienced over the last few months.”
Jim and his family have displayed incredible strength and should be proud of their role in pressing the government to take action. This was a very anxious time. The government should examine how they can improve their response to these cases.
“This is a testimony to the hard work and dedication of the consulate staff, Foreign Office officials, and Jim’s family.”
A spokesperson for the Foreign Office stated that they were providing consular assistance to a British national living in Iraq and would continue to support his family. We have been in touch with the authorities.