STORY: “We are obviously incredibly concerned about Jim's well-being...”
News that an Iraqi court sentenced 66-year-old James Fitton to 15 years in prison for trying to smuggle ancient artifacts came as a gut punch to the British man’s family.
Still, his son-in-law Sam Tasker said the retired geologist is trying to put on a brave face.
"My wife is going crazy, my whole wife's family is going crazy not being able to even speak to him. So we just tried to call him on the off chance he was able to pick up. We spoke for a few minutes. He was just shocked as everybody else.”
Fitton was arrested at Baghdad’s airport in March for having ancient pottery fragments in his baggage.
Baghdad’s Criminal Court said he had ‘criminal intent’ by trying to take them from a heritage site, according to a judicial source, an offence that is normally punishable by death.
A German man arrested alongside Fitton, Volker Waldmann, was acquitted of the same charges.
Waldmann’s lawyer said Fitton gave the German the pieces.
Here's another one of his lawyers, Mohammed Koperly.
"(The court) understands and realises that these monuments (archeological sites) were not fenced, but unfortunately, (the court said that) he should have known that if you pick up these historical things, might be cultural, it could lead to certain consequences."
Fitton’s lawyer said he plans to appeal the verdict on the grounds that there was no criminal intent,
All while his family tries to cope.
“Heartbreaking does not even begin to cover it. It is just the hardest thing I have ever been through, that any of us has ever been through. (EDIT) he remains as hopeful as we do that the appeal will be successful and that we can kind of end this nightmare as soon as possible, really.”