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Calls to save Fife woman’s brother from death penalty in Iraq ‘falling on deaf ears’

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

Desperate pleas to save the brother of a Fife woman from the death penalty in Iraq have fallen on deaf ears inside the Foreign Office, according to her MP.

Distraught Ruth Zuccarello, 68, told The Courier she fears seeing the name Jim Fitton appear on Amnesty International’s list of executions abroad.

But almost a month after Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP Neale Hanvey made two urgent appeals for help from Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, he has still not received a single reply.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

Further correspondence seen by The Courier shows Mr Hanvey contacting Foreign Office minister James Cleverly on May 11 after highlighting the case at Parliament.

The Fife MP has now raised the matter directly with the leader of the House of Commons, Mark Spencer, saying the lack of any response “flies in the face of assertions the government is taking Mr Fitton’s case seriously”.

What is Jim Fitton accused of?

Mr Fitton, who is originally from Bath in Somerset, has been detained for months after being accused of attempting to smuggle historic artefacts out of Iraq.

The retired geologist collected 12 stones and shards of broken pottery as souvenirs during a geology and archaeology tour of the country.

He now faces a further two weeks in a holding cell after his trial was postponed.

The Foreign Office maintains it cannot interfere in the legal system of another country but his family urged ministers to help secure a meeting with high ranking officials.

Neale Hanvey at Westminster.

We reported previously how Ms Zuccarello, who lives in Kirkcaldy, believes the family has ben badly let down by the UK Government and now fears they will be forced to live through a “horrific tragedy”.

Mr Hanvey said: “When Jim Fitton’s sister asked for my help, I treated her concern with the urgency it required and wrote to the Foreign Secretary immediately.

“It’s now almost a full month since then and despite highlighting the lack of response with the minister of state on the floor of the Commons, my constituent’s urgent concern has been completely ignored by the very people in a position to help.

“This is deeply insensitive and wholly unacceptable, and flies in the face of assertions the government is taking Mr Fitton’s case seriously.”

Why has the case been postponed?

Mr Fitton was arrested alongside German tourist Volker Waldmann after items were found in their possession at Baghdad airport on March 20.

The case has been postponed after Mr Waldmann’s lawyer argued more information was needed about the historical significance of the fragments.

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.

Both defendants could face the death penalty because, according to Iraqi law, the pieces could be considered “antiquity” as they are more than 200 years old.

What does the Foreign Office say?

A Foreign Office 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.”

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