Mr Ride, 33, a chef and catering manager from east London, was taken to the notorious Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, where another British businessman, Ian Richter, spent five years before his release last November.
The Foreign Office was taken aback and angered by the unexpected sentence for what it called 'a trivial alleged offence'.
Diplomats believed Mr Ride strayed across the border from northern Kuwait, where he was working, in late June. 'The sentence is totally disproportionate to the alleged offence. We have protested in the strongest possible terms,' the Foreign Office said.
'This is yet another example of the lengths to which the government of Iraq will go to exploit innocent civilians in blatant disregard of their human rights or any internationally accepted standard of behaviour.'
Mr Ride's wife Julie, 31, who stayed in London with their 17- month-old son William during her husband's year-long assignment, believes he may have been picked up as a hostage by Iraqi agents on the Kuwaiti side of the border.Reuse content