Brit who faced death penalty jailed for 15 years for smuggling artefacts

A British bloke who collected 12 stones and bits of broken pottery while visiting a site in Eridu, southeast Iraq, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Jim Fitton, 66, a retired geologist, took the pieces as souvenirs for his visit during an organised geology and archaeology tour, and Fitton's family say they are "shattered" by the result.

The father-of-two could have faced the death penalty under Iraqi law, but was instead sentenced in court to 15 years in prison.

Fitton's son-in-law, Sam Tasker, 27, has said the sentencing is the equivalent "to a death sentence," and has criticised the UK Government for their "total lack of action".

Speaking of the heartbreaking sentencing, Tasker said: "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.

"Particularly for such a trivial and dubious crime, a crime that Jim was not even aware of when he perpetrated it.

"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."

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The 27-year-old added: "We are raising an appeal and will continue to fight for Jim's freedom, and urge the government to support us in every way possible and to open lines of communication with us at a senior level."

Bath's Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse said the sentence was "a devastating outcome for Jim and his family".

The Foreign Office has previously said it cannot interfere with the judicial process of another country.

A German tourist, Volker Waldmann, was arrested for the same charges as Fitton and found himself acquitted and set to be released.

Fitton and Waldmann had been held in Iraq since March 20, and despite the pair telling the court they had not acted with criminal intent, Fitton was sentenced to 15 years.

Judge Jabir Abd Jabir did not consider Mr Soud's arguments of ignorance of Iraqi law, Sky News reports.

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