Iraq: shoe-throwing journalist gets three years

The Central Criminal Court of Iraq March 12 sentenced Muntadar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist accused of throwing his shoes at former US president George W. Bush, to three years in prison for assaulting a foreign leader. The verdict came after a three week postponement during which the court considered arguments from al-Zaidi’s counsel that Bush’s visit was not official and that the assault charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, should not apply because al-Zaidi sought to insult but not injure the US president.

Al-Zaidi pleaded innocent, calling his actions a natural response to the US presence in Iraq. The court rejected his arguments, ruling that Bush’s visit was official and opting to sentence al-Zaidi under the assault charge rather than a lesser charge of insulting a foreign leader that is punishable by a maximum of three years. Al-Zaidi’s defense team said Thursday that he will appeal the verdict, and also indicated that he may file suit internationally for human rights violations committed against him while in custody.

Al-Zaidi’s trial was initially delayed in December so the court could make a determination of the charges. The trial has been opposed for failing to meet international standards of due process and fairness and has been protested by Iraqis. The shoe-throwing incident occurred at a Dec. 14 joint news conference at which Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki signed a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) governing the future US military presence in the country. Al-Zaidi, who had allegedly suffered brutality first-hand in Iraq, having been kidnapped and released by Shi’ite militiamen in 2007, testified to a three-judge panel that his actions were meant to restore Iraqi citizens’ pride. (Jurist, March 12)

See our last post on Iraq.

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  1. ambivalent about shoe-throwing
    i still don’t know how i feel about this situation – i think there were several ways he could’ve better expressed his anger, especially being that he was a journalist at a press conference, but i also have to admit that i can laugh at all the videos of the incident (most notably this one: still, no matter how immature it was, i don’t think it warrants three years in jail. that prison space could be used for people who’ve committed much more violent crimes that haven’t necessarily been as highly publicized as this one.