Iraqi court suspends smuggling case against British, German

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BAGHDAD – An Iraqi court on Sunday stayed the trial of two European tourists whose lawyers accused of smuggling antiquities argued they needed more information about the ancient sarees they had seized.

German citizen Volker Waldman’s defense filed a motion in court alleging that Iraqi officials had insufficient information about the value of the pieces found in his possession. He was charged along with Jim Fitton, 66, a retired British geologist.

The Baghdad Criminal Court has adjourned the case until June 8.

Waldman’s defense lawyer, Furat Kubba, said he started the movement in part to find out more about the historical significance of the pieces found in his client’s possession.

An official technical team concluded the items – 10 pieces found in Fitton’s possession and two of Waldman’s items – could be classified as archeological pieces as they date back more than 200 years. Some small cage-like fingernails were collected in Eridu, an ancient Mesopotamian city in southern Iraq.

Waldman’s defense team said German tourists were carrying the pieces for Fitton but did not remove them from the site. Both men have been charged with smuggling under the country’s antiquities law and could face possible death sentences. However, officials said it was only a remote possibility.

Kubba said they would try to separate Waldman and Fitton separately. Both men said they were unaware of Iraqi antiquities smuggling laws or could be punished for picking up items or trying to leave the country.

Fitton and Waldman were arrested at Baghdad International Airport on March 20, when airport security discovered items in their luggage. They were part of a tourist expedition across the ancient sites of the country. Their case has received international attention at a time when Iraq is hoping to boost its new tourism sector.

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