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A British geologist has finally been reunited with his family after narrowly escaping the death sentence in Iraq.
Jim Fitton, 66, was arrested on March 20 this year and jailed for 15 years after collecting 12 stones and shards of broken pottery as souvenirs while visiting a site in Eridu, in Iraq’s southeast, during an organised geology and archaeology tour.
Iraqi officials claimed the items could have been considered archaeological pieces as they dated back more than 200 years.
The conviction was finally ended by Iraqi courts after a campaign was launched by the family's local MP, Wera Hobhouse, while thousands of people in the UK also wrote to their own MPs and signed a petition, as well as sending messages of support for Jim.
Now, the family has thanked 'the kindness of strangers' for supporting their campaign as he returned home after the undoubtedly scary ordeal.
The father-of-two returned home to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with his wife Sarijah on Friday afternoon, 29 July.
During a virtual press conference at his home, his daughter Leila and her husband Sam Tasker revealed that Jim had lost a lot of weight, but still remained ‘positive’.
Leila Fitton said: “It was a nightmare – worse than a nightmare. I'm very close to my dad and of course, he missed our wedding, he missed a lot.
“I really missed him because I hadn't seen him for two years, so it impacted me a lot. I was stressed every day, I couldn't sleep and I feel like I've not slept for months.
“I can't imagine what he went through, the amount of anxiety.”
Mr Tasker added: “I'm not 100% sure that he really believed that he was home until he woke up in his own bed. It was 160-odd days of constant adrenaline and fear, proper fear.”
The couple thanked everyone who helped bring Jim home, adding that they would 'never again doubt the kindness of strangers'.
The Fitton family also thanked Richard Ratcliffe, who offered advice and support after his own experience with his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was freed from prison in Iran earlier this year.
Mr Tasker said: “We personally have a great many people to thank for their support during this horrific and trying time for our family, not least the 357,000 people who signed a petition on change.org, who kept us going with kind comments and words of support, the hundreds of supporters who wrote letters to their MPs asking for engagement.
“You are evidence that the actions of the many can move the needle in situations like this, you spurred us on when we were struggling to find hope.
“We as a family will never again doubt the kindness of strangers.”
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