The daughter of a retired Briton jailed in Iraq for trying to bring broken pottery home has told Sky News that his sentence of 15 years may as well be for life at his age.
Jim Fitton, 66, from Bath, was arrested at Baghdad Airport in March after collecting 12 stones and shards of broken pottery as souvenirs from a trip to an ancient site in Eridu.
He was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Monday after being found guilty of smuggling under the country’s antiquities law.
His daughter Leila Fitton told Sky News that she had spoken to him after the sentence was handed down.
“He was shocked. We were feeling positive up until the trial. I got quite emotional but he stayed strong.”
Mr Fitton, who had never travelled to Iraq before and missed his daughter’s wedding after his arrest, narrowly avoided the death penalty.
But Ms Fitton said through tears: “It’s a life sentence at his age, isn’t it?”
She continued: “I feel so helpless. We’ve had so much support – emails, calls, messages from all over the world.
“It’s been overwhelming, because I wish I knew what to do.”
Her husband Sam Tasker, 27, with whom she lives in Bath, said a German tourist on the same trip, Volker Waldmann, was released despite being charged with the same offence.
No sign of souvenirs being illegal anywhere
Mr Tasker told Sky News that his father-in-law “asked if he could take them home as a souvenir”.
“There were no signs anywhere that this wasn’t only just illegal but also carries a death sentence,” he said.
“He was accompanied by a tour guide with more than 40 years’ experience, a representative for the Iraqi tourist board and a police officer and none of them registered any protests.
“We’re devastated, it’s so hard for us to swallow.”
Mr Tasker said the family are looking to appeal against the verdict, which will take another 30 days.
The couple are staying in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, where Mr Fitton and his wife Sarijah live, so they can support each other.
Their local MP, Liberal Democrat Wera Hobhouse, raised an urgent question about the case in the Commons.
But the family claim they have been given “minimal” consulate support by the Foreign Office and no “political support”.
“We’ve been trying to help him home ever since. But we feel like we’ve been left alone,” Mr Tasker said.
The Foreign Office said: “We are providing consular assistance to a British national in Iraq, and continue to support his family. We are in contact with the local authorities.”