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Retired British geologist appeals against 15-year jail term in Iraq

Jim Fitton, 66, has spent the last fortnight in an Iraqi prison, with his family concerned over his safety and welfare.

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Retired British geologist Jim Fitton, right, and his wife Sarijah Fitton (Family handout/PA)

Retired British geologist Jim Fitton, right, and his wife Sarijah Fitton (Family handout/PA)

Retired British geologist Jim Fitton, right, and his wife Sarijah Fitton (Family handout/PA)

A retired British geologist has lodged an appeal against his 15-year jail sentence for attempted artefact smuggling in Iraq.

Jim Fitton, 66, has spent the last fortnight in an Iraqi prison, with his family concerned about his safety and welfare.

The father-of-two collected 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.

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Retired British geologist Jim Fitton, right, with his wife Sarijah Fitton, centre, and his daughter Leila Fitton (Family handout/PA)

Retired British geologist Jim Fitton, right, with his wife Sarijah Fitton, centre, and his daughter Leila Fitton (Family handout/PA)

PA

Retired British geologist Jim Fitton, right, with his wife Sarijah Fitton, centre, and his daughter Leila Fitton (Family handout/PA)

Iraqi officials said the items could be considered archaeological pieces as they date back over 200 years.

Mr Fitton has repeatedly insisted he did not intend to smuggle the items and those on the tour were told the shards had no economic or historical value.

His family hope a fresh review of the evidence will secure his release.

Appeal judges are expected to consider Mr Fitton’s case in the next two to four weeks, although there is no set timeframe.

His son-in-law Sam Tasker, 27, from Bath, Somerset, told the PA news agency: “The appeal is in.

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Jim Fitton, 66, who has been jailed in Iraq, could have been given the death penalty (Family handout/PA)

Jim Fitton, 66, who has been jailed in Iraq, could have been given the death penalty (Family handout/PA)

PA

Jim Fitton, 66, who has been jailed in Iraq, could have been given the death penalty (Family handout/PA)

“It, as far as we understand it, will be processed behind closed doors by a small group of judges within the Iraqi judiciary, and they will issue a verdict.”

Mr Fitton and German tourist Volker Waldmann were arrested after the items were found in their possession as their group prepared to fly out of Baghdad airport on March 20.

Mr Fitton was then held in an airport detention cell before being moved to prison shortly after his sentencing on June 6.

Mr Waldmann was cleared after his defence team argued he had been carrying two pieces for Mr Fitton but did not pick them up from the site.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has faced repeated calls to intervene to help Mr Fitton, who worked as a geologist for oil and gas companies.

He lives in Malaysia with his wife, Sarijah.

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