[News] Iraqi says he threw shoes at Bush to protest war

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Feb 19 11:36:13 EST 2009

Iraqi says he threw shoes at Bush to protest war


BAGHDAD (AP) ­ The Iraqi journalist who threw his 
shoes at former President George W. Bush failed 
to apologize as his trial began Thursday, and 
instead appealed defiantly to the pride of his war-ravaged country.

In his first public appearance since he was taken 
into custody on Dec. 14, Muntadhar al-Zeidi said 
he did not intend to harm Bush or to embarrass 
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

"What made me do it was the humiliation Iraq has 
been subjected to due to the U.S. occupation and 
the murder of innocent people," al-Zeidi said. "I 
wanted to restore the pride of the Iraqis in any 
way possible, apart from using weapons."

The 30-year-old journalist also alleged during 
his testimony to the three-judge panel that he 
was tortured while in jail ­ something the Iraqi government has denied.

Al-Zeidi, who's become a folk hero in Iraq and 
the rest of Middle East, was greeted by applause 
and cheers from supporters as he entered the 
courtroom in western Baghdad. His aunt handed him 
a scarf imprinted with a red, black and green 
Iraqi flag, which he kissed and draped around his neck.

The chief judge then threatened to order 
everybody out of the room if they didn't calm 
down. The trial was later adjourned until March 12.

Al-Zeidi has been in Iraqi custody since he was 
wrestled to the ground by guards and dragged away 
after the Dec. 14 outburst at Bush's joint news 
conference with al-Maliki in Baghdad.

When he threw the shoes, he shouted at Bush in 
Arabic: "This is your farewell kiss, you dog! 
This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."

In his testimony on Thursday, al-Zeidi described 
his growing frustration as Bush spoke about his 
victories and achievement at the press conference 
­ held 37 days before Bush handed the war off to 
his successor, Barack Obama, who has pledged to end it.

"I was seeing a whole country in calamity while 
Bush was giving a cold and spiritless smile," 
al-Zeidi testified. "He was saying goodbye after 
causing the death of many Iraqis and economic destruction."

The obscure television reporter was transformed 
into a celebrity across the Muslim world, where 
thousands hailed him as a hero and demanded his 
release for what they considered a justified act of patriotism.

Al-Zeidi's attorneys say he has been charged with 
assaulting a foreign leader, which carries a 
maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. Al-Zeidi 
was originally scheduled to appear in court Dec. 
31, but the trial was postponed as the defense 
unsuccessfully tried to get the charge reduced, 
saying the act didn't merit such harsh punishment.

The defense argued Thursday that Bush was not on 
an official visit because he had arrived in Iraq 
unannounced and without invitation. That would 
mean the charge of assaulting a foreign leader 
would not be applicable, according to the defense.

"The visit was not formal because Bush is an 
occupier and he was received by the commander of 
the U.S. Army," one of al-Zeidi's lawyers Ghalib 
al-Rubaie said. "President Jalal Talabani and the 
prime minister did not receive him when he arrived."

Judge Abdul-Amir al-Rubaie adjourned the trial, 
saying the court needed time to ask the Iraqi 
Cabinet whether Bush's visit was "formal or 
informal." Visits by foreign dignitaries are 
rarely announced beforehand due to security reasons.

The defendant, wearing a beige suit and a black 
shirt, spoke confidently and showed no signs of 
the injuries he allegedly suffered at the hands of security forces.

The case's investigating judge has said the 
journalist was struck about the face and eyes, 
apparently by security agents after he hurled one 
shoe, then another, forcing Bush to duck for 
cover. Al-Zeidi said Thursday he was tortured, 
beaten and given electric shocks during his interrogation.

Two Cabinet protocol employees who witnessed the 
show-throwing incident testified at the trial 
that no bodyguards assaulted al-Zeidi despite confusion at the scene.

One of the witnesses, Sameer Mohammed, said he 
saw some members of the audience start to beat 
al-Zeidi but then "the prime minister ordered 
that the press conference should proceed and that no one should hurt him."

Another witness said the guards did not assault 
al-Zeidi but there was a scuffle.

"No one from security or the bodyguards assaulted 
him, but they were trying to push him out and he 
was pushing them back," witness Abdul Amir said in testimony read by the judge.

Al-Maliki was deeply embarrassed by the assault 
on an American president who had stood by him 
during the worst of the violence, when some Arab 
leaders were quietly urging the U.S. to oust him.

Al-Zeidi's brother, Odai, dismissed the testimony by the government witnesses.

"The trial was a farce and a joke," he said. 
"Muntadhar said: 'I do not regret throwing the 
shoes at Bush and if the clock was turned back, I would hit Bush again.'"

Dozens of relatives and supporters who rallied in 
front of the courthouse before the trial began 
said al-Zeidi should be praised for standing up 
to Bush, not punished for his actions.

"What Muntadhar has done is revenge for Iraqi 
widows and for the bloodshed caused by the 
occupation and policy of Bush," said his aunt, 
Nawal Lazim, who handed him the scarf as he entered the court.

In violence reported by police and military 
officials on Thursday, a series of roadside bombs 
apparently targeting Iraqi security forces killed 
nine people, including four Iraqi soldiers 
patrolling in Balad Ruz, northeast of Baghdad.

A bomb also exploded near a policeman's house 
west of the capital, killing his wife, son and 
nephew, and an Iraqi soldier and a civilian were 
killed in a blast near the Iranian border.

Associated Press Writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra and 
Sameer N. Yacoub contributed to this report.

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