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British geologist to be freed from prison after smuggling conviction quashed

Iraqi officials claimed the items could be considered archaeological pieces as they date back more than 200 years.

26 July 2022

A retired British geologist is to be released from an Iraqi prison after his conviction for attempted artefact smuggling was quashed, according to his family.

Jim Fitton, 66, was jailed for 15 years after collecting 12 stones and shards of broken pottery as souvenirs while visiting a site in Eridu, in Iraq’s south east, as part of an organised geology and archaeology tour.

Iraqi officials claimed the items could be considered archaeological pieces as they date back more than 200 years.

Geologist at risk of the death penalty
Retired British geologist Jim Fitton, with his wife Sarijah and his daughter Leila (family handout)

But Mr Fitton’s family say they are “over the moon” after being told he has now been cleared.

Son-in-law Sam Tasker, 27, from Bath, Somerset, said in a statement: “For the first time since March 20th, Leila, Josh, Sarijah and I are smiling without irony.

“We were informed this morning that the appeals court has decided to quash the verdict of the Felony Court, to fully recognise Jim’s innocence in this case, and to process his immediate release from a 15-year prison sentence in Baghdad.

“We understand that this process is under way – he is still in prison this evening but will soon be released.

“We will not be doing any press interviews or elaborating at all about the situation until he is home, as we don’t want to inflame the wrong groups or put him at any risk.

“Once he is home, we will celebrate and take some time to recover as a family, and will be happy to tell the story to anyone who will listen.”

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