Jim Fitton: Nearly 100,000 Returns Campaign to Free British Geologist Facing Death Penalty in Iraq | World News

Tens of thousands of people have supported a campaign to seek the release of a retired British geologist who is facing the death penalty in Iraq after being accused of 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 had attracted more than 95,000 signatures.

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

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

Mr. Fitton has worked as a geologist for oil and gas companies throughout his career and lives in his native Malaysia with his wife Sarijah.

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

Mr. Fitton was detained in Iraq for five weeks after allegedly trying to smuggle historical artifacts out of the country.

His family said Mr Fitton had collected stones and broken pottery as souvenirs while visiting a site in Eridu, in the southeast of the country, as part of an organized geological and archaeological tour office.

However, they added that the items were considered artefacts under Iraqi law and Mr Fitton charged “anyone exporting or intending to export, knowingly, an antique, from Iraq, will be put to death.”

    Leila, Sarijah and Jim Fitton
Mr Fitton was seen here with his wife Sarijah and daughter Leila, who described his situation as ‘a living nightmare’

The case related to the March incident is expected to be sentencing as early as the week starting May 8.

Mr Fitton’s family described the response to the petition as “unbelievable”, adding in a statement: “Jim truly appreciates the support from former colleagues who Good friends, good spirits and complete strangers did not allow this to go unnoticed.

“We will continue to fight while we continue to have you at 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 can secure a high-level meeting with judicial officials. domestic.

Wera Hobhouse, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, has made her case to ministers in the House of Commons.

“We are pressing the Foreign Office to intervene but sadly they are continuing to refuse,” she said.

“I can’t understand why the State Department doesn’t step in when Jim’s life is in balance.”

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

Joshua, Sarijah, Jim and Leila Fitton
Father of two with wife and two children Joshua and Leila, who are fighting for their release

The State Department said it is providing consular assistance and is in contact with local authorities.

Foreign Affairs Minister Amanda Milling, in a letter to Ms Hobhouse, said last week: “We understand the urgency of the incident and have raised our concerns with the Iraqi authorities regarding the potential repression of the Iraqi authorities. Use the death penalty in Mr Fitton’s case and the UK’s objection to the death penalty in all cases as a matter of principle.”

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