Middle East

Iraq: British geologist gets 15 years for smuggling

A retired British geologist has been sentenced to 15 years in prison after being accused of attempting to smuggle broken pottery out of Iraq.

James Fitton was detained in March after 12 fragments of ancient pottery from a heritage site in southern Iraq were discovered in his luggage.

The verdict handed down to the 66-year-old on Monday shocked the court in Baghdad, according to the Associated Press.

“I thought the worst case scenario would be one year, with suspension,” Mr Fitton’s lawyer Thair Soud said, visibly shocked by the decision.

A German national Wolker Waldmann was tried with Mr Fitton but was found not guilty and will be released.

Judge Jabir Abd Jabir found that by picking up the items, found to be artifacts which were more than 200 years old and intending to transport them out of the country, Fitton had criminal intent to smuggle them.

The judge did not consider the defence’s arugment that Mr Fitton was unaware of Iraqi laws.

Mr Fitton and Mr Waldman were arrested in Baghdad airport on 20 March after airport security discovered the items in their luggage.

They had been part of a tourism expedition across the country’s ancient sites. Their case received international attention at a time when Iraq hopes to boost its nascent tourism sector.


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