A retired geologist who allegedly smuggled historic items from Iraq is possibly facing the death penalty. However, he claims that he was not aware that his act was against Iraqi laws.

Jim Fitton has been accused of taking 12 stones and shards of broken pottery that he allegedly found at an archaeological site in Eridu.

The said item was discovered on the 66-year-old Brit and German national Volker Waldmann. Both were preparing to fly out of Iraq in March at the time, the Independent reported.

Fitton and Waldman appeared before a Baghdad courtroom. The former told the panel of judges that he did not act with criminal intent.

The 66-year-old admitted that he suspected that the items were ancient fragments. However, he claims that at that time, he was not aware of Iraqi laws – particularly about taking the shards.

He backed this up by saying that it was also unclear at that time if taking the pieces was a criminal offense, particularly because there were fences, no guards or signage.

It turns out that being a geologist, Fitton had the knack of collecting fragments as a hobby. He never intended to ever sell them.

Unfortunately, this was not how the head judge saw it. According to him, the nature of the site where he took the fragments alone was enough evidence to indicate that the act was prohibited.

“These places, in name and by definition, are ancient sites. One doesn’t have to say it is forbidden," Judge Jaber Abdel Jabi stated. “These places, in name and by definition, are ancient sites. One doesn’t have to say it is forbidden."

Both Fitton and Waldman are set to face another hearing on May 22. The highest punishment that could be meted would be the death penalty but experts feel that this is unlikely to happen.

Pre-Columbian artifacts
Pre-Columbian arrowheads are shown in this handout photo supplied by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) October 25, 2012. REUTERS/U.S. Immigration and C

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