British geologist jailed in Iraq for looting archaeological site released


A former British geologist jailed in Iraq earlier this year for smuggling pottery shards from an archaeological site has thanked campaigners for helping him win his freedom.

Jim Fitton, 66, was arrested at Baghdad airport in March. Security because his staff found belongings of him and German tourist Volker Waldmann in the luggage.

The two were on an organized geological and archaeological trip to Eridu, an ancient Sumerian city in southern Iraq and a UNESCO heritage site.

Fitton admitted to collecting stones and pottery shards as souvenirs, but insisted he never acted with criminal intent.

Under Iraqi law, the two could face the death penalty, but Waldmann was acquitted and Fitton was jailed for 15 years.

However, Fiton was released from an Iraqi prison last week, following the intervention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Unanimous Voices of Sympathy”

As Iraq seeks to crack down on theft of archaeological sites, Hobhouse, a liberal Democrat MP in Bath, said, “Jim’s case resonated with people, and there was unanimous outpouring of sympathy and support. ” he said.

She criticized ministers for their delay in requesting assistance, and said the Foreign Ministry launched an attack on Fitton after she raised his case in parliament.

Fitton returned to his home in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia over the weekend.

His daughter, Layla Fitton, said: I got along very well with his father and was stressed every day, couldn’t sleep and felt like I hadn’t slept in months. I can’t imagine what he went through, how worried he was.”

Her husband Sam Tusker said: Kind comments and words of support, the hundreds of supporters who wrote letters to their congressmen asking them to be engaged….our family will never doubt the kindness of a stranger again. ”

He also said he took advice from Richard Ratcliffe, whose wife, Nazanin Zagari Ratcliffe, was detained in Iran for six years before being released earlier this year.

PA Media contributed to this report.

Chris Summers

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Chris Summers is a UK-based journalist with a wide range of national coverage, with a particular interest in crime, police and law.

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