A 95-thousand strong campaign has been launched seeking to free a retired British geologist at risk of facing the death penalty in Iraq after being accused of smuggling.
A petition seeking to release 66-year-old Jim Fitton, a father of two, has already garnered over 95,000 signatures within days of its launch.
According to a statement from Fitton’s family, Iraqi airport security arrested Fitton after finding shards of broken pottery in their luggage as they attempted to leave the country.
The family said that Fitton had been informed that the shards were of no economic or historical value to Iraq.
Fitton collected the shards as souvenirs at a site in Eridu on March 20 as part of an organized geology and archaeology tour, his family said.
The family said that the shards were judged to be artifacts under Iraqi law and the charge leveled against Fitton states, “whoever exported or intended to export, deliberately, an antiquity, from Iraq, shall be punishable with execution.”
Fitton’s case in connection with the March incident is expected to go for sentencing in the week beginning May 8.
The government now faces increasing pressure to intervene in Fitton’s case.
Fitton’s family said their lawyer has drafted a proposal under Iraqi law to have the case closed before the trial. However, they need the backing of the Foreign Office to secure a high-level meeting with Iraqi judicial officials.
The Foreign Office said it is providing consular support and is in contact with the local authorities.
Foreign Office Minister Amanda Willing said that they have “already raised our concerns with the Iraqi authorities” regarding the case.
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