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100,000 people sign petition to save British dad from death penalty

Ministers are under pressure to help a retired British geologist facing the death penalty in Iraq over smuggling allegations.

A petition urging the release of father-of-two Jim Fitton, 66, has received 100,000 signatures in just three days.

His daughter Leila and her husband Sam Tasker, from Bath, in Somerset, have now revealed his sentencing this month will coincide with their wedding.

They said: ‘There is never a good time for something like this to happen but we are one week away from what should be the happiest day of our lives, and the culmination of more than two years of planning, and it’s been turned into an absolute living nightmare.

‘We have accepted the fact that, without timely intervention from the FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Jim will be unable to attend this ceremony too.’

Mr Fitton has been detained in Iraq for five weeks after being accused of attempting to smuggle historic artefacts out of the country.

His family said Mr Fitton collected stones and shards of broken pottery as souvenirs while visiting a site in Eridu, in the country’s south-east, as part of an organised geology and archaeology tour.

But they added the items were judged to be artefacts under Iraqi law and the charge levelled at Mr Fitton states ‘whoever exported or intended to export, deliberately, an antiquity, from Iraq, shall be punishable with execution’.

Jim Fitton pictured with his wife Sarijah and his daughter Leila, who is fighting to free her father (Picture: PA)

His case in connection with the March incident is expected to go for sentencing in the week beginning May 8.

Mr Fitton’s family described the response to the petition as ‘unbelievable’, adding in a statement: ‘Jim really appreciates the support from old colleagues, good friends, kindred spirits, and complete strangers who have not allowed this to go unnoticed.

‘We will continue to fight while we continue to have you at our backs.’

Mr Fitton worked as a geologist for oil and gas companies during his career and lives in his adopted home of Malaysia with his wife, Sarijah.

Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, has raised his case with ministers in the House of Commons.

The family said their lawyer has drafted a proposal under Iraqi law to have the case closed before trial but they need the Foreign Office to ‘put their weight behind the plan’.

Minister Amanda Milling, in a letter to Ms Hobhouse, said last week: ‘We understand the urgency of the case, and have already raised our concerns with the Iraqi authorities regarding the possible imposition of the death penalty in Mr Fitton’s case and the UK’s opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle.’

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