James Cleverly, the Foreign Office Minister, has said that the Government has tried to speak to Iraqi authorities on numerous occasions about the fate of Jim Fitton, a British geologist. Fitton is facing the death penalty after taking out a number of pieces of pottery from Iraq, which he claimed he didn’t realise was against the law.
Cleverly had said in the House of Commons last week:
“We understand the urgency and the concerns that Mr Fitton and his family have. We cannot, of course, interfere or seek to interfere with the judicial process of another country, just as we would not expect interference in our own judicial process. That said, the British ambassador in Baghdad has raised and will continue to raise Mr Fitton’s case with the Iraqi Government. That includes raising with the authorities the UK’s strong opposition to the death penalty, in the context of both its potential application to Mr Fitton and our in-principle opposition to it in all instances.”
Over 270,000 people have signed a petition at https://www.change.org/p/our-father-is-facing-the-death-penalty-in-iraq-freejimfitton in support of releasing Fitton. His family said in a statement:
“Whilst on the tour, our father visited historical sites around Iraq, where his tour group found fragments of stones and shards of broken pottery in piles on the ground. These fragments were in the open, unguarded and with no signage warning against removal. Tour leaders also collected the shards as souvenirs at the site in Eridu. Tour members were told that this would not be an issue, as the broken shards had no economic or historical value. Now the tour leader, another British citizen, has passed away from a stroke in custody in Baghdad, and our father awaits his fate.”