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The daughter of a British geologist sentenced to death in Iraq is heartbroken as he misses her wedding
LONDON: The daughter of a retired British geologist who remains in custody after allegedly trying to smuggle valuable artefacts out of Iraq has said she is “heartbroken and scared” because her father , who missed her wedding due to fury, could face the death penalty.
Leila Fitton’s wedding was called off during the COVID-19 pandemic, and she was hoping her family, including those living overseas, could return to Britain to celebrate the occasion this weekend.
But her parents, who live abroad, were both unable to return because her father Jim Fitton, 66, is locked up in Iraq and faces the death penalty.
Jim was on a guided tour in Iraq earlier this year, visiting geological and archaeological sites in parts of the country’s ancient heritage sites, but was arrested at the airport when authorities discovered stones and shards of broken pottery in his luggage.
His family claim the tour guide leading the expedition said he collected them on a site visit after being assured they were of no value.
He is now awaiting trial. The punishment for his offence, if found guilty, is execution, but 120,000 people have called on the UK government to facilitate his release.
On Sunday, Leila said: “It breaks my heart that my father, Jim, is not here. The uncertainty of his situation and the horrific, but very real, possibility of the death penalty hangs over us.
She added: “It’s supposed to be the happiest day of our lives, but instead we find ourselves heartbroken and scared of what might happen to my father if the Foreign Office doesn’t did not intervene to support him.”
Her husband, Sam Tasker, recently told The Independent newspaper that they felt “completely let down” by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. Jim’s trial is scheduled for next week.
The FCDO has said that while it opposes the death penalty, it cannot interfere in the legal systems of other countries.
Leila, who lives in Britain, said: “We hope the support we have received will be recognized by the Foreign Office and will step in so that Jim can return home soon for a belated celebration.”
An FCDO spokesperson said: “We are providing consular support to a British national in Iraq and are in contact with local authorities. The UK government’s policy on the death penalty is clear: we oppose it in all circumstances, as a matter of principle.