Family of retired British geologist Jim Fitton ‘broken’ as he’s jailed in Iraq

·2-min read
Family of retired British geologist Jim Fitton ‘broken’ as he’s jailed in Iraq

The daughter of a retired British geologist sentenced to 15 years in an Iraqi jail over smuggling allegations has now said she feels “helpless”.

Jim Fitton, 66, was sentenced at a court in Baghdad on Monday for attempting to smuggle artefacts out of the country, despite arguing he had no idea he was breaking Iraqi laws.

He had collected 12 stones and shards of broken pottery during a recent geology and archaeology tour of the country but Iraqi officials claimed the items could be considered archaeological pieces as they date back 200 years.

The father-of-two was arrested at Baghdad airport on March 20 alongside German tourist Volker Waldmann after airport security discovered the items in their luggage.

Now speaking to Good Morning Britain, his daughter Leila said she felt “so broken” after a judge found her father guilty of intending to smuggle the artefact out of a site in Eridu in southern Iraq.

Through the tears, she said: “We feel helpless... We’re so so broken.”

Breaking down on the programme, she said her father “was not emotional when he spoke to me… He was just trying to keep strong for us”.

Her husband Sam Tasker said the whole situation was “unbelievable”.

He added: “We only just found out yesterday, it’s a very emotional time. This whole thing has been unbelievable.”

After the verdict on Monday, Mr Tasker said in a statement: “We are absolutely shattered by this news.

“For a man of Jim’s age, 15 years in an Iraqi prison is tantamount to a death sentence.

“We are completely heartbroken that our own best efforts, a strong legal defence and constant campaigning have led to this outcome. We are disappointed, indeed stunned, at our own government’s total lack of action in this case to date.”

Volker Waldmann, right, and Jim Fitton, left, are handcuffed as they walk to a courtroom in Baghdad (AP)
Volker Waldmann, right, and Jim Fitton, left, are handcuffed as they walk to a courtroom in Baghdad (AP)

A petition started by Mr Fitton’s family has garnered more than 100,000 signatures.

Mr Fitton’s lawyer Thair Soud told the Associated Press that he believed “the worst case scenario would be one year, with suspension”.

Judge Jabir Abd Jabir found, according to the government's investigation, Fitton had criminal intent to smuggle the artefacts that he had picked up and intended to transport them out of the country.

Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, said: “This is clearly a devastating outcome for Jim and his family.

“There is now no other option but for the Foreign Secretary to intervene at a ministerial level. The Foreign Secretary must make representations to the Iraqi government.

“This is yet another example of the British Government presiding over a case of a British national in trouble abroad and they have failed to take action.”

A spokesperson for the Foreign Office told the Standard: “We are providing consular assistance to a British national in Iraq, and continue to support his family. We are in contact with the local authorities.”

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