June 26, 2022

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British geologist sentenced to prison in Iraq for taking antiquities

British geologist sentenced to prison in Iraq for taking antiquities

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A Baghdad court sentenced a British tourist to 15 years in prison for taking pottery pieces from the archaeological site of an ancient city in southeastern Iraq.

Jim Fitton, a 66-year-old retired geologist, was convicted of trying to smuggle artifacts out of the country after he was arrested at Baghdad airport with several shrapnel and stones in his luggage. The British citizen and his family asserted that he did not know this was illegal and that the pieces were in an open, unguarded space when he picked them up.

Monday’s ruling rocked the Fitton family, and his lawyer told reporters he would appeal.

“We cannot be sad and shocked,” his daughter, Leila, wrote in an online petition calling for his release, calling the sentence a “horrific injustice”. “We are suspending our emotional reactions in favor of taking affirmative action to bring Jim home,” his family’s statement added.

Along with a tour group that visited Iraq earlier this year, Vuitton went to the archaeological site of Eridu, Part of the remains of the Sumerian cities in ancient Mesopotamia.

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His family urged the British government to intervene and endorse the appeal.

The British Foreign Office said on Tuesday in an email that it was “in contact with local authorities” but did not respond to questions about the sentence or about whether Fitton could serve the sentence in his home country rather than Iraq. “We are providing consular assistance to a British citizen in Iraq and continue to support his family,” she said.

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Under Iraq’s 2002 Heritage Law, looting artifacts can result in a prison sentence of seven to 15 years, while stealing antiquities by force with a weapon or in combination is punishable by death.

The country, home to the cradle of civilization, has seen a push to recover thousands of ancient artifacts looted in the two decades since the American invasion — many of which have ended up in museums and personal collections in the United States and around the world. Globalism.

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Neglect of archaeological sites, lack of funds, and corruption later led to further looting, while Islamic State fighters destroyed and smuggled antiquities when they gained territory in Iraq.

Last year, the United States returned more than 17,000 smuggled artifacts, with Iraq’s culture minister praising international efforts to stop smugglers and return looted property.

There was no immediate comment from the Iraqi government on Monday’s Fayton prison sentence, which appeared to shock his lawyer. “I thought the worst case scenario would be one year with suspension,” the lawyer said For the Associated Press.

The founder of the Iraqi tourism company Bill Weekend said the case highlighted the need to inform tourists of efforts to protect the country’s heritage. “The first thing we mention is not picking things up, and talking about the importance of protecting heritage in Iraq,” Ali Makhzoumi chirp.