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Jim Fitton: Campaign to return nearly 100,000 to free British geologist facing death penalty in Iraq

Supporters say pressure is mounting on the UK government to take urgent action and help save the father of two 66-year-olds.

Jim Fitton: Nearly 100,000 back campaign to free British geologist facing death penalty in Iraq
Jim Fitton: Nearly 100,000 back campaign to free British geologist facing death penalty in Iraq

Tens of thousands of people have backed a campaign to find a retired British geologist facing the death penalty in Iraq after being charged with smuggling.

Supporters say pressure is now mounting on the government to take urgent action and help father-of-two Jim Fitton, 66, who has a “balanced life.”

Within days of being launched by the family, a petition attracted more than 95,000 signatures.

His daughter Leila and husband Sam Tasker, from Bath, in Somerset, have also revealed his sentencing this month is said to coincide with their long-planned wedding anniversary, which was held last year amid coronavirus restrictions.

“There’s never a good time for something like this to happen but we’re only a week away from the happiest day of our lives, and the culmination of more than two years of planning, and it’s become an absolute living nightmare,” they said.

Fitton has worked as a geologist for oil and gas companies throughout his career and lives in his adopted son’s native Malaysia with his wife, Sarijah.

COVID’s travel rules mean Fitton’s daughter hasn’t seen him in more than two years.

Fitton was detained in Iraq for five weeks after being accused of trying to smuggle historical artefacts out of the country.

His family said Fitton collected rocks and broken pottery fragments as souvenirs while visiting a site in Eridu, the southeast of the country, as part of an organised geological and archaeological tour.

However, they added that the items were considered artefacts under Iraqi law and fitton accused “anyone who exports or intends to export, knowingly, an antique, from Iraq, of being executed.”

The case in connection with the March incident is expected to be handed down at the beginning of the week starting May 8.

Fitton’s family described the response to the petition as “unbelievable,” adding in a statement: “Jim really appreciates the support from former colleagues, good friends, kind spirits and complete strangers who have not allowed this to be noticed.

“We will continue to fight while we continue to have you in our back.”

The family said their lawyers had drafted a proposal under Iraqi law for the case to be closed before trial, but they needed the State Department to “put their weight behind the plan and confirm it” so they could secure a high-level meeting with judicial officials. in the water.

Wera Hobhouse, liberal Democrat MP for Bath, raised her case with ministers in the House of Commons.

She said: “We are pressuring the Foreign Office to intervene but sadly they are continuing to refuse.

“I can’t understand why the State Department didn’t intervene when Jim’s life was in the balance.”

She added: “The State Department must do everything in their power to bring Jim home to his family.”

The Foreign Office said it was providing consular assistance and was in contact with local authorities.

Foreign Secretary Amanda Milling, in a letter to Ms Hobhouse, said last week: “We understand the urgency of the case and have raised our concerns to the Iraqi authorities about the possibility of applying the death penalty in Mr Fitton’s case and the UK’s opposition to the death penalty in any case as a matter of origin. clogged. ”

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