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Briton accused of artefact smuggling in Iraq insists he had no criminal intent

A retired British geologist accused of artefact smuggling suspected the objects had been historic however had no thought he was breaking Iraqi legal guidelines, a court docket has heard.

Jim Fitton, 66, and German vacationer Volker Waldmann instructed judges they had not acted with criminal intent as they appeared in a Baghdad court docket carrying yellow detainees’ uniforms on Sunday.

Father-of-two Fitton collected 12 stones and shards of damaged pottery as souvenirs whereas visiting a website in Eridu, in Iraq’s south east, as half of an organised geology and archaeology tour.

Retired British geologist Jim Fitton, along with his spouse Sarijah Fitton and his daughter Leila Fitton (Family handbout/PA)

(PA Media)

The objects had been discovered in the possession of the pair as their group ready to fly out of Baghdad airport on March 20.

The three-judge panel in Baghdad’s felony court docket scheduled a second listening to for May 22 and the court docket should decide whether or not the defendants had sought to revenue by taking the objects.

Both males might face the dying penalty, in keeping with Iraqi regulation, however it has been recommended such an final result is unlikely.

Fitton mentioned he “suspected” the objects he collected had been historic fragments.

But he instructed the court docket “at the time I didn’t know about Iraqi laws” or that taking the shards was not permitted.

The court docket heard Fitton was in the behavior of accumulating such fragments as a interest and had no intention to promote them given his background as a geologist.

But stressing it was not clear to him that selecting them up from the location was a criminal offence, he mentioned of the websites: “There were fences, no guards or signage.”

Head choose Jaber Abdel Jabir

Head choose Jaber Abdel Jabir responded: “These places, in name and by definition, are ancient sites.

“One doesn’t have to say it is forbidden.”

When Fitton mentioned some of the shards had been “no larger than my fingernail”, the top choose mentioned this was not related and famous: “Size doesn’t matter.”

Waldmann mentioned the 2 objects discovered in his possession weren’t his and as an alternative had been given to him by Fitton to hold.

Fitton lives in Malaysia along with his spouse Sarijah whereas his daughter Leila Fitton, 31, and her husband Sam Tasker are primarily based in Bath, Somerset.

Their petition calling for UK ministers to intervene to assist free Fitton has collected greater than 271,000 signatures.

The case was additionally raised in the House of Commons throughout an pressing question session final week.

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly mentioned the British ambassador in Iraq has raised the case 4 occasions with Iraqi authorities.

The defence plans to submit extra proof to clear the boys, Fitton’s defence lawyer Thair Soud instructed the Associated Press.

He mentioned this contains proof from authorities officers current on the website the place the fragments had been collected

“(Their evidence) is pending approval from their official directorates,” he instructed the information company.

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