Shoe-thrower sentenced to jail

Muntazer al-Zaidi, 30, had risked up to 15 years in jail.


Wearing a light-brown suit, brown sweatshirt and thin-framed glasses, he was brought into the packed Iraq Central Criminal Court under a heavy police escort, an AFP reporter said.

Charges of \’aggression\’

Zaidi is charged with aggression against a foreign head of state during an official visit — and the issue of whether Bush\’s visit was official or not is crucial to the outcome.

The trial first opened on February 19 but was adjourned to determine the nature of the former US president\’s farewell visit to Iraq on December 14.

Judge Abdulamir Hassan al-Rubaie told the court that government ministers had declared the visit official.

Mixed feelings about trial

On his farewell trip to Iraq, Bush had been at a globally-televised media conference with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki when Zaidi let rip with his shoes, zinging them at Bush, who managed to duck just in time.

The journalist\’s aunt, Un Jalal, voiced hope at the courthouse before the verdict, that Zaidi would be let off.

“I really hope that they make a decision today, Inshallah (God willing),” she told reporters. “Inshallah, they will and he will be freed.”

But his brother Mithan sounded less optimistic.

“After the last trial (session), Muntazer was very disappointed. He was also disappointed at not being moved from his current facility (jail).

“He was also told by lawyers that the prime minister\’s office had decided it was an official visit. I feel this is not true. Bush was not on an official visit.”

Family members crowd court

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

Another brother, Uday, told AFP he expected Muntazer to be found guilty.

“I have no illusions about the outcome. Of course they are going to decide that George W Bush was on an official visit. This trial is a farce,” Uday told AFP.

The Baghdadia television reporter told the court in February that he had been outraged and was unable to control his emotions when Bush, who ordered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, started speaking at the media conference.

“I saw only Bush and it was like something black in my eyes,” he said from the dock.

“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.

Shoe insult

“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.”

The gesture is considered a grave and symbolic insult in the Arab and Muslim world. He also insulted Bush verbally, shouting: “It is the farewell kiss, you dog,” before security forces wrestled him to the ground.

Before the trial, Zaidi said he had been beaten and tortured while in custody.

His brothers told AFP they wanted to bring torture charges against Bush, Maliki and his bodyguards at a human rights court in either Belgium or Spain.

A Syrian lawyer said she was preparing to file a complaint.

However, Uday also said that his brother had not requested political asylum in Switzerland, contrary to what a lawyer in Geneva had previously claimed.