Iraq’s hero shoe-thrower to face trial

The journalist who threw his shoes at George Bush, will face trial on Feb. 19 for assaulting a visiting head of state, with a maximum 15-year prison term, Iraqi officials have announced. Muntader al-Zaidi‘s lawyers lost an appeal to have the charge against him reduced to that of insulting Bush, rather than assaulting him. (Reuters, Feb. 8)

Al-Zaidi, 29, was immediately arrested after his Dec. 14 shoe-toss, and has been allowed only two visitors—and none since Dec. 21, according to those close to him. His family and lawyer have expressed grave concerns about his safety. Dhiyaa al-Saadi, Zaidi’s lawyer, said he had recently seen medical records that were part of Zaidi’s court file that added credence to the journalist’s claim that he had been beaten and tortured after his arrest by the security detail of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. Saadi said two medical reports conducted by government physicians within a week of Zaidi’s arrest described bruising that covered the reporter’s face and body but was especially severe on his legs and arms; a missing tooth; a gash on the bridge of his nose; and what appeared to be a burn mark on his ear.

Saadi said he had not been permitted to remove the records from the office of the judge investigating the case, so the New York Times could not independently verify the existence of the documents. But the account of Zaidi’s wounds matches injuries described by the journalist’s brother after his prison visit Dec. 21.

Fadhil Mohammed Jwad, the legal adviser for Maliki, denied that Zaidi had been tortured and said would receive a fair trial. But freedom for al-Zaidi has become a popular cause in Iraq. Protests have been held in his behalf, and banners plastered on walls across Baghdad demand his release. (IHT, Jan. 15)

Meanwhile, shoe-throwing appears to be the new global zeitgeist. Martin Jahnke, a 27-year-old German national working at Cambridge University’s Department of Pathology, has been arrested on charges of having thrown a shoe at Chinese premier Wen Jiabao as he gave a speech. Wen was giving a speech at the prestigious British university on China‘s role in the globalized world, when he was interrupted by a protester shouting “This is a scandal” and calling him a dictator. After the sports shoe narrowly missed the premier, the protester was bundled out, shouting to audience members: “Stand up and protest!” (AFP, Feb. 7)

In perhaps the most bizarre incident, a pro-war protester dressed in his 1950s-era military uniform threw his shoes at Mayor Carolyn Peterson at a meeting of the Common Council in the upstate New York town of Ithaca. Perpetrator Robin Palmer was apparently protesting the council’s “Community of Sanctuary” resolution, which asserts Ithaca’s commitment to protect the rights of military personnel protesting the “immoral wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan. Strangely, Palmer is said to be a former member of the Weather Underground. (Ithaca Journal, Feb. 5)

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