jim fitton british geologist reunited with family after being freed from iraqi jail - Jim Fitton: British geologist reunited with family after being freed from Iraqi jail

A British geologist who was sentenced to 15 years in an Iraqi prison has been reunited with his family following his release.

Jim Fitton, 66, from Bath in Somerset, was accused of trying to leave Iraq with 12 stones and shards of broken pottery in March this year.

He was arrested at Baghdad airport on 20 March and was charged under a 2002 law against “intentionally taking or trying to take out of Iraq an antiquity”, which carries the maximum sentence of the death penalty.

The retired geologist collected the items as souvenirs during a geology and archaeology tour in Eridu, south-eastern Iraq, and always insisted he did not know he was breaking Iraqi laws.

His conviction was overturned after a campaign led by his family, including a petition to have him freed gathered more than 350,000 signatures.

Mr Fitton lives in Malaysia with his wife Sarijah, and was reunited with his family at Kuala Lumpar International Airport on Friday.

Mr Fitton’s daughter Leila Tasker, from Bath, said the ordeal had been “worse than a nightmare”.

“As soon as we saw him it was such relief,” Ms Tasker told an online press conference two days after her father’s release.

“It was a real nightmare and I’m very close to my dad. I really missed him. It impacted me a lot and I was stressed every day.

“It was a nightmare, worse than a nightmare. I couldn’t really sleep, I feel like I’ve not slept for months.”

Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, said she was “absolutely over the moon” at Mr Fitton’s release.

“It’s impossible to comprehend what Jim and his family have been through over these past few months,” she said.

“Looking ahead, the government must review how they respond to cases like Jim’s in the first instance. There are hundreds of other UK nationals arbitrarily detained abroad, often in terrible conditions and circumstances.

“Now is the time for the family to rebuild and heal and to get their lives back to normal. I hope that they are given the space to do this.”