UK, German Tourists Reportedly Face Death Penalty in Iraq in Antiquity Smuggling Case

Prison Cell - Sputnik International, 1920, 22.05.2022
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The Iraqi Heritage and Antiquities Law’s Article 41 envisages penalty of up to capital punishment for those who “deliberately removed archaeological material from Iraq or attempted to remove it”.
The trial of two tourists, from the UK and Germany, is under way in Baghdad. They are accused of trying to smuggle historic items out of Iraq, which can result in the death penalty, according to the local news outlet Shafaq.
Retired British geologist James Fitton, 66, and 60­-year-old German psychiatrist Volker Waldmann were part of an unspecified tourist group before they were detained at Baghdad Airport on 20 March and charged with being in possession of 12 pieces of broken antique pottery.
During the second hearing on Sunday, the Iraqi court reportedly dealt with determining whether both men planned to profit from the shards. No details of the event have been released so far.
This followed last week’s hearing, in which Fitton, who took 12 stones and shards of broken pottery he had found at an archaeological site in the ancient Sumerian city of Eridu, insisted in his testimony he had not acted with criminal intent.
The 66-year­-old argued he had “suspected” the items he had collected were ancient fragments, but added that he “at the time didn’t know about Iraqi laws”, or that taking the shards was not permitted.
“I did not realise that it was against the law to take these pieces. What puzzled me was that some [archaeological] sites had warnings, guards and fences, while others were open”, Fitton emphasised.
In an apparent attempt to justify his actions, he said that some of the shards were “no larger” than his fingernail, with the Iraqi court’s Head Judge Jaber Abdel Jabir responding by saying that “size doesn’t matter”.
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Waldmann, for his part, denied during the first hearing that the two artefacts found among his belongings were his, asserting that they had been given to him to carry by Fitton.

“When Fitton gave me the pieces, I put them in a transparent bag and did not try to hide them, so they appeared in the X-ray machine, and I was supposed to return them to him [Fitton] before we entered the airport,” Waldmann testified.

UK Minister of State for Asia and the Middle East Amanda Melling has meanwhile stated that the British government’s “concerns have already been raised with Iraqi authorities regarding the possible imposition of the death penalty in the Fitton case”.
The statement came after more than 50,000 people in Britain already signed a petition calling for Fitton's release.
Deliberately removing “archaeological material from Iraq” or trying to do so is punishable by sentence of up to death penalty, according to the Iraqi Heritage and Antiquities Law’s Article 41.
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