Family say UK government won't help dad detained in Iraq until he gets death sentence

  • Detained man's family speak to GMB

The family of a Bath man who has been detained in Iraq for allegedly smuggling artefacts claim the UK government will not help him until he is sentenced to death.

Jim Fitton, 66, faces the prospect of execution after collecting stones and shards of pottery from an archaeological site.

His family say he was visiting a site in Eridu, in the country's south east region, during an organised geology and archaeology tour in March when he took the items.

He was later detained at the airport after the stones and pottery were judged to be artefacts under Iraqi law.

The charge since levelled at Mr Fitton states “whoever exported or intended to export, deliberately, an antiquity, from Iraq, shall be punishable with execution”.

Speaking on ITV's Good Morning Britain (GMB), Sam Tasker said his father-in-law asked if he could take the items at the time.

"A representative from the Iraqi tourism ministry was with them on the trip, and an Iraqi police officer [was] acting as security," said Mr Tasker.

"So there were plenty of people there to make sure that he was doing the right thing.

"Our fear is that Jim will become a victim of the political situation in Iraq."

The Foreign Office has said they will step in if he is handed the death penalty.

Mr Tasker said the UK government has provided practical support - such as English-speaking lawyers - but is yet to lobby the Iraqi government.

  • Jim Fitton's talk about lack of government support

"What we've had from the Foreign Office is consular support - practical, on the ground support providing us with English speaking lawyers and they've been going to visit Jim weekly to make sure he's being fed and watered and looked after practically," Mr Tasker said.

"But from a political engagement perspective, there is no support until the point at which he is sentenced to death when they will lobby the Iraqi government.

"Despite everything we've been doing - press calls and all the rest of it - we've yet to speak to anyone with any decision making capabilities in the Foreign Office."

During his time being detained, Mr Fitton has missed his daughter's wedding celebration, leaving him "heartbroken".

A spokesperson for the Foreign Office said: "We are providing consular support to a British national in Iraq and we are in contact with local authorities. The British government's policy on the death penalty is clear, we oppose it in all circumstances as a matter of principle."

The Iraqi embassy did not respond to ITV's request for comment.