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Friday, October 07, 2022

Europeans deny smuggling Iraqi antiquities

BAGHDAD ( Associated Press) — A British citizen and a German tourist accused of smuggling fragments of antiquities out of Iraq appeared in court Sunday in Baghdad, dressed in yellow prison uniforms, telling judges they did not act with criminal intent and that they did not know that they might have broken local laws.

The trial of Jim Fitton, a 66-year-old British citizen, has drawn international attention as Iraq seeks to open up its nascent tourism sector. The session also revealed the first details about a second defendant, identified as Volker Waldmann, from Germany.

The three-judge panel at the Baghdad felony court scheduled the next hearing for May 22. The court must determine whether the defendants intended to make a profit by carrying 12 items, which were found in their possession while attempting to board a flight at Baghdad airport on March 20.

Fitton and Waldmann appeared in court, where they were asked to explain their actions. Waldmann said that the two items found in his possession were not his and that Fitton had given them to him to take. “But did you put them in your own bag?” Chief Judge Jaber Abdel Jabir asked. “Didn’t you know they were Iraqi antiquities?” he added.

Waldmann said he did not collect the items from the old site, only agreeing to take them at Fitton’s request.

Fitton said he “suspected” the items he collected were antiquities fragments, but “at the time he did not know about Iraqi law” or that taking the fragments was not allowed. Fitton said that, as a geologist, he was in the habit of collecting fragments as a hobby and that he never intended to sell them.

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