After his trial was postponed by an Iraqi court, a retired British geologist facing the death penalty for attempting to transport ancient artifacts out of Iraq will spend another two weeks in a detention cell.
Both Jim Fitton, 66, and co-accused German tourist Volker Waldmann were led into the courtroom in stark yellow jumpsuits as Fitton’s family prayed for a judgment at a second court hearing today.
Instead, they will have to wait until June 6 when Baghdad’s criminal court postponed the case on the request of Waldmann’s defense team.
Both men were arrested at Baghdad airport on March 20 with fragmented shards of Iraqi antiquities in their possession as they tried to leave the country.
It was reported Waldmann’s defence lawyer, Furat Kubba, argued more information was needed about the historical significance of the 12 items found in their possession, which Iraqi officials have said could be considered as archaeological pieces as they date back more than 200 years.
Mr Fitton’s son-in-law Sam Tasker said the hearing was delayed to June 6 due to unknown ‘paperwork issues’.
‘It’s not really bad news, but it’s another two weeks of waiting for all of us, and detention for Jim, because of some admin issue’.
This is now the second time that Jim’s hearing has been postponed – following a previous week-long delay for a hearing set initially on 15 May to 22 May – the reason being to allow the defence more time to submit evidence.
The judge had told the accused on that occasion that they were charged under a 2002 law which provides for sentences up to the death penalty for those guilty of ‘intentionally taking or trying to take out of Iraq an antiquity’.
Tasker, 27, from Bath, says the family are all ‘struggling immensely’ with the delays and lack of knowledge on the situation.
He added: ‘Obviously we’re just trying to get Jim home safe and sound as quickly as possible.
‘Every setback we get cuts us all deeply, and another two-week delay to the verdict just leaves us all in limbo for longer.
‘The family are all struggling immensely with the uncertainty and our constant fear for Jim’s life.
‘And two more weeks in a holding cell for Jim, bringing him to ten weeks in detention in total, is worrying given his age.