The Iraqi journalist who threw a shoe at the then-President of the United States, causing George Bush to duck, inspiring cartoonists and creating good punchlines for comedians everywhere has been sentenced to three years in Iraqi prison for assaulting a head of state.
Muntadher al-Zaidi became a hero to many in the Middle-East and the Arab and Muslim world (and probably also to shoe makers — since in a time of world recession footwear suddenly had a new function). But just as pie-throwers in the United States have found that the judicial system doesn’t appreciate the joke (go here to see Ralph Nader after being “pied”), Iraqui officialdom doesn’t either so they gave him the boot:
Muntadher al-Zaidi, the man seen as a hero in some circles for throwing his shoes at then-U.S. President George W. Bush, was sentenced to three years in prison Thursday by an Iraqi court.
Al-Zaidi threw his shoes at Bush during a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in December in Baghdad.
Neither shoe hit the president, and other people in the room quickly knocked al-Zaidi to the ground before security officials arrested him.
Family members and journalists were cleared from the courtroom before Thursday’s verdict.
After news of the verdict reached family members, al-Zaidi’s brother appeared close to fainting. Other family members were seen crying and shouting curses about al-Maliki and Bush.
Al-Zaidi was a journalist who worked for the television network al-Baghdadia. The network also called for his release shortly after the incident.
He explained his actions during an hourlong appearance last month in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq. Asked whether anyone pushed or motivated him, al-Zaidi said he was spurred by the “violations that are committed against the Iraqi people.”
According to the AP, the verdict’s annoucement, how Al-Zaidi reacted to it, and how his family reacted were as dramatic as when he hurled the shoe at Bush:
The Iraqi journalist who threw shoes at then-President George W. Bush was convicted Thursday of assaulting a foreign leader and sentenced to three years in prison, lawyers said. He shouted “long live Iraq” when the sentence was read.
The verdict came after a short trial in which Muntadhar al-Zeidi, 30, pleaded not guilty to the charge and said his action was a “natural response to the occupation.”
Some of his relatives collapsed after the verdict and had to be helped out of court. Others were forcibly removed by security forces when they became unruly, shouting “Down with Bush” and “Long live Iraq.”
Al-Zeidi could have received up to 15 years in prison for hurling his shoes at Bush last December during a joint press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
But defense lawyers said the judge showed leniency because of al-Zeidi’s age and clean record. Many Iraqis consider al-Zeidi a hero for defiantly expressing his anger at a president who they believe destroyed their country after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Thousands across the Muslim world took to the streets to demand his release.
Defense lawyers said they would appeal because they believe the action was a legitimate political protest and did not merit prison time.
“This judiciary is not just,” al-Zeidi’s brother, Dargham, said tearfully.