[News] Iraq 'shoe-thrower' sentenced to 3 years

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Mar 12 11:55:37 EDT 2009

Iraq 'shoe-thrower' sentenced

An Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George Bush, then US 
president, has been given a three-year jail sentence after pleading 
not guilty to assaulting a foreign head of state.

The sentencing of Muntadher al-Zaidi, 30, by the Central Criminal 
Court in Baghdad on Thursday, was announced by Al-Baghdadiya 
television, his employer.

The journalist, who became a hero to many Iraqis after the December 
14 incident, arrived at the court under a heavy police escort.

Judge Abdulamir Hassan al-Rubaie said he had taken into consideration 
that al-Zaidi is young and it was his first offence, the defence lawyers said.

Packed courtroom

There was standing room only at the courtroom on the edge of 
Baghdad's Green Zone as some 200 family members, reporters and 
lawyers crowded in.

Al-Rubaie later cleared the court before returning his verdict.

Asked if he was innocent, al-Zaidi responded: "Yes, my reaction was 
natural, just like any Iraqi (would have done)."

Bush was speaking on December 14 at a joint news conference in 
Baghdad with Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, when al-Zaidi 
hurled his shoes at him.

The shoes narrowly missed Bush, who later brushed the incident aside.

As well as throwing the shoe, al-Zaidi shouted "It is the farewell 
kiss, you dog", before security forces wrestled him to the ground.

He later said he had been beaten and tortured in custody.

Shoe-hurling is considered an especially grave insult in the Arab and 
Muslim world and al-Zaidi had risked up to 15 years in jail on the 
charge of aggression against a foreign head of state.

'Prisoner of war'

After the verdict on Thursday, al-Zaidi's 25-strong defence team 
emerged from the  courtroom to scenes of chaos. Several family 
members screamed: "It's an American court ... sons of dogs."

One of his brothers, Uday, said the decision was political.

"This is a political court. Muntadhar is being treated like a 
prisoner of war. He is not a normal prisoner ... This decision has 
been taken by the prime minister's office."

Al-Zaidi shouted "Iraq, long live Iraq" after the verdict was read 
out, Yahia Attabi, a defence lawyer, said.

"We expected the decision because under the Iraqi criminal code he 
was charged with assaulting a foreign leader on an official visit."

Appeal planned

Attabi said al-Zaidi will appeal the decision.

The family said they would not only appeal but also press ahead with 
plans to bring torture charges against Bush, al-Maliki and his 
bodyguards at a human rights court abroad.

Ehiya al-Sadi, the chief defence lawyer, had argued that his client's 
motives were "honourable".

"He was only expressing his feelings. What he could see was the blood 
of Iraqis at his feet when he watched the US president speaking about 
his achievements in Iraq."

Al-Sadi also argued that although Iraqi law considered it an attack 
on a visiting head of state, "[al-Zaidi's] throwing of the shoe did 
not cause any injury or damage ... His goal was to insult Bush for 
the pain Iraqis have suffered".

Al-Zaidi's account

The trial opened on February 19 but was adjourned to determine the 
nature of Bush's December visit.

Al-Zaidi told the court last month that he had been outraged and was 
unable to control his emotions when Bush started speaking to the media.

"I had the feeling that the blood of innocent people was dropping on 
my feet during the time that he was smiling and coming to say bye-bye 
to Iraq with a dinner.

"So I took the first shoe and threw it but it did not hit him. Then 
spontaneously I took the second shoe but it did not hit him  either. 
I was not trying to kill the commander of the occupation forces of Iraq."

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