Iraqi court postpones German-British smuggling case

Baghdad (AP) — An Iraqi court on Sunday delayed the trial of two European tourists charged with smuggling antiquities.

Counsel for the German state Volker Waldman has sued Iraqi officials, claiming that there is insufficient information about the value of the pieces found in him. He was charged along with retired British geologist Jim Fitton, 66.

The Baghdad Felony Court postponed the case until 6 June.

Waldman’s attorney, Furat Kubba, said the move was initiated in part to seek more information about the historical significance of the work in the client’s collection.

A government technical team has concluded that the items with 10 fragments in Fitton’s possession and 2 fragments in Waldman’s possession could be classified as archaeological because they are more than 200 years old. Some fragments the size of a fingernail were collected from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Eridu in southern Iraq.

Waldman’s lawyers said a German tourist was carrying pieces for Fitton, but he didn’t pick them up at the scene. The two are charged with smuggling under the country’s antiquities law and could potentially face the death penalty. But officials said such a possibility was slim.

Kubba said he would let Waldman and Fitton try it separately. The two said they would face penalties if they didn’t know about Iraq’s smuggling laws or if they tried to leave the country with items or pick them up.

Fitton and Waldman were arrested at Baghdad International Airport on March 20 when airport security officers found items in their luggage. They were part of a tourist expedition that traversed the ancient ruins of the country. Their case received international attention at a time when Iraq hopes to revitalize its nascent tourism sector.


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