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Fife woman’s agony goes on as Jim Fitton still in Iraq jail cell fearing death penalty

Retired British geologist Jim Fitton and his wife Sarijah Fitton.
Retired British geologist Jim Fitton and his wife Sarijah Fitton.

A retired British geologist charged with attempted artefact smuggling faces a further two weeks in a holding cell after his trial was postponed by an Iraqi court.

The family of Jim Fitton, 66, including his sister in Fife, had hoped judges would come to a decision during a second court hearing on Sunday.

They will now have to wait until June 6 after Baghdad’s felony court postponed the case following a request by the defence team for co-accused German tourist Volker Waldmann.

It was reported Waldmann’s defence lawyer, Furat Kubba, argued more information was needed about the historical significance of the 12 items found in their possession, which Iraqi officials have said could be considered as archaeological pieces as they date back more than 200 years.

‘Cruel ordeal’ for Jim Fitton

Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse, who represents Mr Fitton’s family based in her Bath constituency, said: “This is a frustrating outcome for Jim and his family. Another two weeks of waiting.

“I am thinking of Jim again today and his family who have been through so much.

“Another two weeks in a holding cell is a cruel ordeal that should have been avoided.”

Father-of-two Mr Fitton collected 12 stones and shards of broken pottery as souvenirs while visiting a site in Eridu, an ancient Mesopotamian city in southern Iraq, as part of an organised geology and archaeology tour.

Both he and Waldmann were arrested after the items were found in their possession as their group prepared to fly out of Baghdad airport on March 20.

Waldmann said the two items found in his possession were not his and instead had been given to him by Mr Fitton to carry.

Agony goes on for relative in Fife

Ruth Zuccarello, 68, has previously told The Courier she fears seeing her brother’s name appear on Amnesty International’s list of executions abroad.

The pensioner, who lives in Kirkcaldy, believes her family has been badly let down by the Foreign Office.

The 66-year-old, originally from Bath in Somerset, told us the situation is “horrifying”.

“This is a case of gross injustice and we need the Foreign Office to recognise that,” she added.

Both defendants could face the death penalty, according to Iraqi law, but it has been suggested such an outcome is unlikely.

Mr Fitton insisted he had not acted with criminal intent and had no idea he was breaking Iraqi laws during his first court appearance earlier this month.

British geologist Jim Fitton, with his wife Sarijah Fitton and his daughter Leila Fitton.
British geologist Jim Fitton, with his wife Sarijah Fitton and his daughter Leila Fitton.

He lives in Malaysia with his wife Sarijah while his daughter Leila Fitton, 31, and her husband Sam Tasker are based in Bath, Somerset.

Ms Hobhouse said: “Jim and his family have shown incredible resolve and strength over this whole ordeal, and I hope that they receive the support they need over the next two weeks.

“This situation could have been avoided if the Foreign Office acted earlier. We’ve all accepted that the Foreign Office will be offering no further help to Jim and his family.

“The focus is now on the new date on June 6.

“In the meantime, I will keep exploring avenues and reaching out to the Foreign Office in the hope of finding some answers.”

MP Neale Hanvey has raised the matter at Westminster on behalf of Mr Fitton and his constituent, Ms Zuccarrello.

Mr Hanvey has previously told The Courier that he has contacted the foreign secretary, Lis Truss, on the matter.

SNP MP Chris Law, meanwhile, stated previously that “action on the ground isn’t happening” with regard to UK Government assistance with Mr Fitton’s situation.

The Foreign Office has said it cannot interfere with the judicial process of another country and has made clear its opposition to the death penalty.

More than 277,000 people have signed a petition urging officials to do all they can to bring Mr Fitton home.

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