Iraq sentences Bush shoe reporter to three years jail

A Baghdad court sentenced an Iraqi reporter who hurled his shoes at Bush to three years in prison, the journalist's employer said on Thursday.

Iraq sentences Bush shoe reporter to three years jail

A Baghdad court sentenced an Iraqi reporter who hurled his shoes at former U.S. president George W. Bush to three years in prison on Thursday, dismaying Iraqis who regard him as a hero.

Muntazer al-Zaidi, 30, who pleaded not guilty to the charge, told the Baghdad court: "What I did was a natural reaction for the crimes committed against the Iraqi people."

Outside the courtroom, Zaidi's sister Ruqaiya burst into tears when she heard the verdict, shouting: "Down with Maliki, the agent of the Americans".

"Bush's achievements" in Iraq

Zaidi earned instant worldwide fame in December when he threw his shoes at the visiting U.S. leader, who laounched the 2003 occupation, and called him a dog at a news conference.

Dhiaa al-Saadi, the head of Zaidi's defence team, condemned the sentence as harsh and said it would be contested in the appeals court.

The government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who was standing next to Bush at the news conference tried the block a shoe.

At the start of his trial in February, Zaidi said Bush's smile as he talked about "achievements" in Iraq had made him think of "the killing of more than a million Iraqis, the disrespect for the sanctity of mosques and houses, the rapes of women".

Enraged, he removed his shoes and hurled them one by one at Bush, shouting "This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog". Bush ducked, and was not hit by the flying footwear.

"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."


Zaidi's lawyers tried to convince the court to reduce the charge to insulting, rather than attempting to assault, a visiting head of state which would have incurred a more lenient sentence. The journalist, who has been detained since December, could have been sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, an Iraqi group that advocates for reporters, said the verdict came as a shock.

"It is now left to wait for a presidential or prime ministerial pardon, because we cannot accept an Iraqi journalist behind bars," said Hadi Jalu, the group's deputy director.

The U.S.-led invasion led killings of tens of thousands of Iraqis and displaced many more.


Zaidi has also been hailed in Iraq and across world as a hero. His protest against Bush has been adopted by many as an act of protest, and shoe-throwing has caught on at demonstrations around the world.

"The case is politicised and is an attempt to take revenge on Zaidi. I believe the judges were under political pressure from known factions ... the verdict is unfair," said Ahmed al-Masoudi, a spokesman for parliamentarians.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 12 Mart 2009, 16:19