Family of Bath geologist Jim Fitton facing death penalty in Iraq 'incredibly worried'

The Bath-based family of a retired geologist detained in Iraq under smuggling allegations have told ITV News they are 'incredibly worried.'

Jim Fitton was arrested at Baghdad airport after an archeological tour in March. The 66-year-old has been in a holding cell at the airport for eight weeks with just five minutes a day to communicate with his family.

He said he collected 12 stones and shards of broken pottery as souvenirs but was arrested alongside German tourist Volker Waldmann after the items were found in their possession, as their group prepared to fly out of Baghdad on March 20.

He has been accused of attempting to smuggle historical artefacts, an offence punishable by death in Iraq.

Pottery in Eridu - taken by Jim on 15 March. Credit: Jim Fitton

A second court hearing has today been postponed for two weeks until June 6th. Judges will then determine whether the defendants had sought to profit by taking the items.

Mr Fitton’s son-in-law Sam Tasker, 27, who lives in Bath, said: "The law literally says anyone who exports or attempts to export historical artefacts out of Iraq shall be punishable by execution so we're obviously incredibly worried.

"If Jim can convince the court of his innocence with our help and the help of legal representation then we get him home and we get to look after him and help him recover from what is undoubtedly a huge ordeal - eight weeks locked in a cell that's designed for temporary holding."

Jim Fitton's wife Sarijah Fitton, his son-in-law Sam Tasker, daughter Leila Fitton, and son Joshua Fitton. Credit: Family pictures

Jim's family have also been critical of the help they have received from the UK Government since his arrest in March.

Sam said: "As of last week we've come to the conclusion that ministers in the Foreign Office are not going to help besides offering the consulate support which they talk about providing.

"We've been asking for ministers to intervene directly and to speak with ministers within the Iraqi government which they've now basically confirmed they're not going to do so we've accepted that the foreign office are not going to help and we are just focussing on supporting Jim as he defends himself in court."

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has told ITV News they 'cannot interfere in the legal systems of other countries, just as we would not expect them to interfere in ours.' They advise against all travel to Iraq.

A spokesperson said: "We are providing consular assistance to a British national in Iraq, and continue to support his family. We are in contact with the local authorities.

"The British Government’s policy on the death penalty is clear. We oppose it in all circumstances, as a matter of principle."