A British man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for smuggling antiquities out of Iraq this week, bringing a dramatic end to a case that has received worldwide attention.
The lawyer for Jim Fitton, a retired geologist, said they planned to appeal the decision. “I thought the worst-case scenario would be one year, with suspension,” Thair Soud, Fitton’s legal representative, told Al Jazeera, adding that he plans to appeal the decision.
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Iraqi officials arrested Fitton and a German man, Volker Waldmann, at a Baghdad airport in March. Although Waldmann was believed not to have had criminal intent in attempting to carry artifacts beyond Iraqi borders, investigators in the country said that Fitton was attempting to smuggle them.
Fitton’s family has said that the 12 pottery shards that were allegedly in his position were taken as souvenirs during a visit to Eridu, an ancient site in the Mesopotamian desert. Family members said that Fitton and other visitors to Eridu had been encouraged to take the shards by a tour leader.
A lawyer for Waldmann had claimed that he had been in possession of the shards Fitton had taken, but that he personally did not remove them.
In the international press, Fitton’s case had attracted scrutiny because he was reported to have been eligible for the death penalty. Still, Iraqi officials said they were not likely to give him a punishment quite so harsh. British officials raised concerns about the possibility of the death penalty charge.
It is unclear where Fitton will end up serving his sentence.