British man facing death penalty in Iraq over artefacts 'heartbroken' after missing daughter's wedding

British man facing death penalty in Iraq over artefacts 'heartbroken' after missing daughter's wedding
British retired geologist Jim Fitton was forced to miss his daughter's wedding celebrations in Malaysia, as the 66-year-old faces trial- and possible execution- in Iraq over smuggling shards and stone fragments from the Eridu archeological site.
2 min read
09 May, 2022
Iraqi law states that 'whoever exported or intended to export, deliberately, an antiquity, from Iraq, shall be punishable with execution' [Getty]

A British geologist detained in Iraq over allegations that he smuggled artefacts is said to be heartbroken over missing his daughter’s wedding celebrations, reported the BBC.

Jim Fitton could face the death penalty for picking up pottery fragments as souvenirs from an archeological site in Eridu, during an organised archeological tour of the country’s south in March.

Fitton was sent pictures of his daughter’s festivities, which took place on Saturday and Sunday in Malaysia.

Leila Fitton and son-in-law Sam Tasker, previously held a smaller wedding ceremony in August last year due to the UK's Covid-19 restrictions, but continued the wedding's celebrations in the southeast Asian country, where the retired geologist resides with his wife.

His son-in-law said that he sent the family a message which read: "You all look great, love to you all," reported the BBC.

Tasker added that as Fitton was not able to give his daughter away, her brother tasked himself with the responsibility. 

He said the moment was "bittersweet", as he would’ve preferred to "be with us", and added that his father-in-law is "putting on a brave face", despite what he is facing.

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The 66-year-old is facing court proceedings this week in Iraq, and maintains he had "no criminal intent". He also hopes for the charges against him to be dropped.

The family has repeatedly appealed to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to help free Fitton, with Tasker stating that the family is doing "everything they can" to get "political engagement" from the FCO, according to ITV.

A petition calling for Fitton’s release has so far collected 124,000 signatures.

Bath MP Wera Hobhouse expressed that Fitton has been "abandoned" by the Foreign Office.

Fitton was arrested last month while trying to leave Iraq at Baghdad Airport, when Iraqi customs officials found him in possession of stone and shard fragments.

The fragments were ruled to be artefacts under Iraqi law, which forbids "the taking, buying or receiving in gift of any heritage or antiquity material, without notifying the state council of antiquities and heritage".

Punishments can range from 10 years' imprisonment to the death penalty.