Muntadhar al-Zaidi: Wikis

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Muntadhar al-Zaidi
منتظر الزيدي
Born January 16, 1979 (1979-01-16) (age 31)
Iraq
Education Baghdad University
Communications
Occupation Broadcast journalist
Religious belief(s) Shi'a-Muslim
Notable credit(s) Al-Baghdadia TV

Muntadhar al-Zaidi (Arabic: منتظر الزيديMuntaẓar az-Zaydī)[a] is an Iraqi broadcast journalist who serves as a correspondent for Iraqi-owned, Egyptian-based Al-Baghdadia TV. Al-Zaidi's reports often focused on the plight of widows, orphans, and children in the Iraq War.[1]

On November 16, 2007, al-Zaidi was kidnapped by unknown assailants in Baghdad. He was also previously twice arrested by the United States armed forces. On December 14, 2008, al-Zaidi shouted "this is for the widows and orphans" and threw his shoes at then-US president George W. Bush during a Baghdad press conference. Al-Zaidi suffered injuries as he was taken into custody and some sources said he was tortured during his initial detention.[2][3] There were calls throughout the Middle East to place the shoes in an Iraqi museum,[4] but the shoes were later destroyed by American and Iraqi security forces.[5] Al-Zaidi's shoeing inspired many similar incidents of political protest around the world.[6][7]

Following the incident, Al-Zaidi was "embraced around the Arab world"[8] and was represented by the head of the Iraqi Bar Association at trial.[9] On February 20, 2009, al-Zaidi received a 90-minute trial by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq.[10] On March 12, 2009, he was sentenced to three years in prison for assaulting a foreign head of state during an official visit. On April 7 the sentence was reduced to one year from three years.[11] He was released on 15 September 2009 for good behavior, after serving nine months of the sentence.[12] After his release, Al-Zaidi was treated for injuries and later said he planned to "build orphanages, a children's hospital, and medical and orthopaedic centres offering free treatment and manned by Iraqi doctors and medical staff."[13]

Contents

Biography

Muntadhar al-Zaidi was raised in Sadr City, a suburb of Baghdad, Iraq.[14] He began working as a correspondent for Al-Baghdadia TV in 2005. He first became known as a victim of a kidnapping by unknown assailants in November 2007. Al-Zaidi has also been arrested twice by United States armed forces.[15][16] He lives in a two room apartment within central Baghdad.[17][18] He is of the Shi'a-Muslim faith,[19] and unmarried.[20]

"One of his best reports was on Zahra, a young Iraqi school girl killed by the occupation forces while en route to school," said Ahmed Alaa, a close friend and colleague of al-Zaidi at al-Baghdadia television who talked to Islam Online. Alaa said al-Zaidi documented the tragedy in his reportage, complete with interviews with her family, neighbors and friends. "This report earned him the respect of many Iraqis and won him many hearts in Iraq," he said. Al-Zaidi once also turned down an offer to work for what he termed "a pro-occupation channel".[21] Friends said al-Zaidi had been "emotionally influenced" by the destruction he'd seen in his coverage of the US bombing of Sadr City.[22] Muzhir al-Khafaji, al-Zaidi's boss at the TV station, describes al-Zaidi as a "proud Arab and an open-minded man." He added, "He has no ties with the former regime. His family was arrested under Saddam's regime."[23] On politics, al-Zaidi said "I’m Iraqi and I’m proud of my country." Friends of al-Zaidi said he utterly rejected the occupation and the civil clashes. They said he believed the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement was a "legalization of the occupation."[24]

Sami Ramadani, a political exile from Saddam's regime and a senior lecturer at London Metropolitan University, wrote in an op-ed for The Guardian that al-Zaidi "reported for al-Baghdadia on the poor and downtrodden victims of the US war. He was first on the scene in Sadr City and wherever people suffered violence or severe deprivation. He not only followed US Apache helicopters' trails of death and destruction, but he was also among the first to report every 'sectarian' atrocity and the bombing of popular market places. He let the victims talk first".[25]

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Kidnapping and detention

On Friday morning, November 16, 2007, al-Zaidi was kidnapped on his way to work in central Baghdad. Unknown armed men forced him into a car, where he was beaten until he lost consciousness. The assailants used al-Zaidi's necktie to blindfold him and bound his hands with shoelaces. He was held captive with little food and drink and questioned about his work as a journalist. During his disappearance, al-Zaidi was reported missing by Iraq's Journalistic Freedoms Observatory.[15] On November 18, Reporters Without Borders "voiced deep concern" in a statement about al-Zaidi's detention.[26] No ransom demand was made, and al-Zaidi's kidnappers released him still blindfolded, on to a street three days later around 3 a.m. on Monday, November 19, 2007, after which al-Zaidi's brother picked him up.[15] The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees mentioned al-Zaidi's kidnapping in a December 2007 report that listed violent incidents in the media, in particular, incidents targeting journalists in Baghdad. According to the report, "journalists and media workers and other professionals continue to be targets for kidnapping and assassination."[27]

After his kidnapping, al-Zaidi told Reuters; "My release is a miracle. I couldn't believe I was still alive."[15] The editor of Al-Baghdadia TV described the kidnapping as an "act of gangs, because all of Muntadhar's reports are moderate and unbiased."[28] Al-Zaidi has also been arrested twice by the United States armed forces in Iraq.[16] In January 2008, al-Zaidi was detained overnight by US troops as they searched his residence. The soldiers later offered him an apology.[29]

Shoe incident

"This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq," al-Zaidi yelled.[30]

During a December 14, 2008 press conference at the Prime Minister's Palace in Baghdad, Iraq, al-Zaidi threw both of his shoes at then-United States President George W. Bush. The throwing of shoes is an act of extreme disrespect in the Arab culture.[31] "This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog," yelled al-Zaidi in Arabic as he threw his first shoe towards the U.S. president.[30] "This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq," he shouted as he threw his second shoe.[30] President Bush ducked twice, avoiding being hit by the shoes. Prime Minister Maliki also attempted to catch one of the shoes to protect the President. Al-Zaidi was then pulled to the floor[32] by another journalist,[33] before being grabbed by Prime Minister Maliki's guards, kicked, and rushed out of the room. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino was hit in the face by a microphone boom knocked over by a presidential bodyguard resulting in a clearly visible black eye.[34]

President Bush said some Iraqi reporters had apologized to him, and he said that he thanked them for their apologies. "Thanks for apologizing on behalf of the Iraqi people. It doesn't bother me." Bush joked, "If you want the facts, it's a size 10 shoe that he threw." When asked about the incident by another reporter, Bush said "It's a way for people to draw attention. I don't know what the guy's cause was. I didn't feel the least bit threatened by it."[35] When later asked to reflect on the incident, Bush said "I didn't have much time to reflect on anything, I was ducking and dodging. I'm not angry with the system. I believe that a free society is emerging, and a free society is necessary for our own security and peace," he added.[36] "I don't think that you can take one guy throwing his shoe as representative of the people of Iraq," said White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.[37]

Al-Zaidi was initially held by the prime minister's guards, and was later turned over to the Iraqi army's Baghdad command. The command handed him over to the Iraqi judiciary. Hundreds took to the streets to demand his release.[38] Al-Zaidi could face charges of insulting a foreign leader and the Iraqi prime minister, who was standing next to Bush. A conviction of these charges would carry a sentence of up to two years in prison or a small fine — although it's unlikely he would face the maximum penalty given his newfound "cult status" in the Arab world, according to a Middle-East observer.[20] An Iraqi lawyer has stated that al-Zaidi is likely to get at least two years in prison if he is prosecuted for insulting a visiting head of state.[16] Al-Zaidi went before a judge on December 17, 2008. Al-Zaidi declined to be represented by Khalil al-Duleimi, who defended the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein before his execution, and also said that he wanted to be represented by an Iraqi lawyer.[39] "I will introduce myself as his lawyer and demand the case be closed and Muntadher be released because he did not commit a crime," said Dheyaa al-Saadi, al-Zaidi's lawyer and head of the Iraqi Bar Association. "He only freely expressed himself to the occupier, and he has such a right according to international law."[9] On December 17, 2008, al-Zaidi appeared privately before a judge from within the Green Zone. This renewed fears for his well-being and it was unclear whether he had been allowed any legal representation.[40]

Injuries

According to witnesses, al-Zaidi was "severely beaten" by security officers after he had been dragged out of the room following the shoe-throwing incident.[8] As the man's screaming could be heard outside, Bush said "That's what people do in a free society, draw attention to themselves."[31] A "large blood trail" could be seen on the carpet where al-Zaidi had been dragged by security agents.[41][42] Dawa-owned Afaq TV reported that security forces kicked al-Zaidi and beat him.[31] His family reports that it has received many threatening phone calls.[43] The United States Secret Service and the Iraqi Police took custody of al-Zaidi.[44] Al-Zaidi was tested for alcohol and drugs, and his shoes were confiscated as evidence.[45] Al-Zaidi was interrogated by Iraqi and U.S. agents to ascertain whether anyone paid him to throw his shoes at Bush.[46] In an interview with BBC News, al-Zaidi's brother, Durgham al-Zaidi, reported that Muntadhar al-Zaidi suffered a broken hand, broken ribs, internal bleeding, and an eye injury.[18] Durgham al-Zaidi told Al Jazeera that his brother was tortured.[47] Al-Baghdadia TV said that al-Zaidi was "seriously injured" during his detention.[47] Al Sharqiya also points to signs of injury on his thighs and an immobile right arm. However, a different brother, Maitham al-Zaidi, spoke with Muntadhar on the phone and was told: "Thank God I am in good health."[46] On Friday 19 December Dhia al-Kinani, the judge investigating the case, said there were signs al-Zaidi had been beaten; al-Zaidi had bruises on his face and around his eyes.[3] The judge also said al-Zaidi had not yet raised a formal charge relating to his injuries.[3] His lawyer, Dhiya'a al-Sa'adi, has also confirmed that al-Zaidi had been beaten, stating that "there are visible signs of torture on his body".[48]

Copycat shoeing

On December 1, 2009, al-Zaidi was the victim of a copycat shoeing. At a press conference in Paris, an unidentified man hurled a shoe at al-Zaidi while al-Zaidi was speaking about his experiences during the Bush shoeing and its aftermath.[49]

Timeline

  • On December 14, 2008, the shoe-throwing incident took place, culminating in al-Zaidi's arrest.
  • On December 15, 2008, hundreds of Iraqis marched in Baghdad to demand his release. Crowds gathered in Sadr City district of Baghdad and called for "hero" Muntadhar al-Zaidi to be freed from custody. There were similar scenes in Najaf.[8][45] The demonstrators in Sadr City and Najaf alluded to the shoes. Participants in Sadr City "waved shoes attached to long poles," and those in Najaf threw their shoes at a passing United States military convoy.[8][45] The "vast majority" of viewers of al-Baghdadia who telephoned to the station in order to express their opinions said that they approved al-Zaidi's actions.[8]
  • On December 17, 2008, a group of Iraqi lawmakers demanded that the legislature take up the issue of the detained journalist. Aqeel Abdul Hussain, head of the Sadrist bloc, said that lawmakers had a duty to stand up for the detained journalist.[50] "Some of the members support the government, but we have to admit that there was a mistake in the procedures under which he was arrested," said a spokesman for Parliament Speaker Mashhadani. "And we also must condemn the fact that he was beaten," he added. The session of Parliament ended without a consensus on what action to take regarding the reporter.[51]
  • On December 18, 2008, a spokesman for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that al-Zaidi wrote a letter to Maliki expressing regret for his actions and asking for a pardon. Dhargham al-Zaidi claims that his brother was severely beaten after being taken into Iraqi custody.[52] On December 17, Amnesty International called on Iraqi authorities to disclose the whereabouts of al-Zaidi and investigate all allegations of torture or other ill-treatment.[53] Judge Dhia al-Kinani, the magistrate investigating the incident, said the court has opened a probe into al-Zaidi's alleged beating.[54] Dhiaa al-Saadi, head of the Iraqi Bar Association, said that, according to court documents, the reporter's face and body were bruised.[55] "The investigation process is now under way in mysterious circumstances," al-Zaidi's brother Uday said.[54]
  • On December 19, 2008, thirty of al-Zaidi's family members staged a rally outside the heavily-fortified "Green Zone," which houses the Iraqi government and the prison where al-Zaidi is being held. In response to an apology letter that al-Zaidi was said to have written, al-Zaidi's brother Uday stated that the apology was "not a real one. If they [the government] want an apology, they must first release him so he can do it freely and not under pressure." Um Saad, al-Zaidi's sister, said that al-Zaidi "would never apologize for insulting the man who occupied our country".[56] She also said that "nothing is known about... his condition, but he did nothing wrong. On the contrary, he pleased everyone. Bush is an occupier and he is the source of all the orphans and all the widows in Iraq."[57] Bahaa al-Araji, a Sadrist MP, said journalist Muntathir al-Zaidi plans to press charges against the people who he says beat him. "We know that the judges themselves feel for him... tomorrow we will submit a formal request that Zaidi should be allowed visits by his family," he also said. "We should call him Muntathar al Iraqi — not Muntathar al-Zaidi; all of Iraq is his tribe now," a leader in the Sons of Iraq movement said of al-Zaidi.[56]
  • On December 20, 2008, it was reported that the letter that al-Zaidi is said to have written to Nouri al-Maliki apologizes only to Maliki and not to George W. Bush. Al-Zaidi said he had no remorse for throwing his shoes at Bush and "added that he would repeat his actions if he sees him again, because Bush's forces have killed many of Iraq's children". In a written statement to the judge, al-Zaidi said that he expected to be killed by Bush's body guards after hurling his first shoe. "It seemed that his bodyguards were not on full alert at the time, that was how I managed to throw the second shoe," al-Zaidi explained.[58] Also, hundreds of protesters gathered in a park opposite the Green Zone to protest the treatment of al-Zaidi. Heavily armed Iraqi soldiers surrounded the small park and Iraqi Army helicopters circled overhead as the demonstrators were demanded to leave. "I have told them I won’t move anywhere unless it is to my grave," said al-Zaidi's brother, Uday. Sunnis and Shiites held signs describing al-Zaidi as "the son of Iraq" and "the humiliator of the occupiers". A few Iraqi soldiers ate food offered to them.[59]
  • On December 21, 2008, al-Zaidi claimed he was physically coerced and that he would never apologize to President Bush no matter what the consequences. "Muntadhar said that he was forced to apologize to Al-Maliki and he will never, never apologize to Bush, even if they cut him into small pieces," al-Zaidi's brother Uday told the Los Angeles Times. Al-Zaidi's brother claimed his journalist brother had lost a tooth and his nose had required stitches because of the beatings he had suffered while in custody. "There were multiple bruises all over his body," he said. "There were cigarette burns behind his ears. He was beaten with metal rods. His eyes were swollen. They have assigned two medical doctors ... to provide him with treatment in order to hide the evidence of torture."[60] Al-Zaidi's brother said his jailers periodically demanded he "confess" that he had been ordered to commit the act by enemies of the prime minister, but that a letter to the prime minister written by him from jail expressing regret for the attack was not said to have been ordered.[61] Maliki reiterated that Zaidi's television station should renounce the act of al-Zaidi,[62] and also suggested, without providing any names, that "a person urged him to commit this act, and this person is known to us as a person who beheads people".[61] U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice argued that Iraq is a democracy and that "history always shows these things differently than today’s news."[63] An Iranian deputy minister called for al-Zaidi's release.[64]
  • On December 22, 2008, al-Zaidi's lawyer Dhiya'a al-Sa'adi also confirmed that al-Zaidi had been beaten and that al-Zaidi said he would never apologize to President Bush.[65] Abdulsattar al-Berikdar, a spokesman of the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council, said the court was not investigating allegations of torture because al-Zaidi didn't ask to be "submitted to a medical committee and did not tell the judge that he was tortured or register a complaint against anyone."[66] Hajar Smouni, a spokesperson for Doha Center for Media Freedom in Qatar, argued that al-Zaidi should be given access to medical care and a fair trial. Smouni said it was positive he met a lawyer, but said it is worrying "that he is to be tried at the Central Criminal Court of Iraq, because that is a court used to try terrorism suspects".[65]
  • On December 23, 2008, the Iraqi Parliament accepted the resignation of its speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani. Part of the controversy for his resignation began with his refusing to allow discussion of the fate of Muntadhar al-Zaidi. The speaker described al-Zaidi as "the pride" of Iraq and said that his "best friends" were currently being detained by the United States military for ties to the insurgency. "I weep for the state of Iraq," he told the Iraqi Parliament in his resignation.[67]
  • On January 16, 2009, al-Zaidi's brother visited him for 2 hours and Iraqi prison guards threw him a birthday party.[68]
  • On January 28, 2009, Muntadhar al-Zaidi cast his vote from prison.[70]
  • On January 29, 2009, A monument of a shoe was erected in honor of Muntadhar al-Zaidi in a orphanage in Tikrit.[71] The orphans helped to build the structure.[72]
  • On January 30, 2009, the monument that was erected in honor of Muntadhar al-Zaidi was taken down after requests from the central government.[73] Iraqi police visited the location to make sure that the shoe monument was removed. "We will not allow anyone to use the government facilities and buildings for political motives," Abdullah Jabara, deputy governor of Salaheddin argued. Faten Abdulqader al-Naseri, the orphanage director, said "Those orphans who helped the sculptor in building this monument were the victims of Bush's war. The shoe monument is a gift to the next generation to remember the heroic action by the journalist."[74]
  • On February 19, 2009 al-Zaidi told the Baghdad Central Criminal Court that he acted spontaneously after listening to Bush praise the "achievements" made in Iraq: "While he was talking I was looking at all his achievements in my mind. More than a million killed, the destruction and humiliation of mosques, violations against Iraqi women, attacking Iraqis every day and every hour. A whole people are saddened because of his policy, and he was talking with a smile on his face - and he was joking with the prime minister and saying he was going to have dinner with him after the press conference. Believe me, I didn't see anything around me except Bush. I was blind to anything else. I felt the blood of the innocent people bleeding from beneath his feet and he was smiling in that way. And then he was going to have a dinner, after he destroyed one million martyrs, after he destroyed the country. So I reacted to this feeling by throwing my shoes. I couldn't stop the reaction inside me. It was spontaneous."[75]
  • On 3rd March 2010, Blancox, a Columbian detergent manufacturer made an advertisement out of the shoe-throwing incident, by replacing the shoes with beautiful bouquets of flowers to signify 'fabric freshness and softness treasured in it'.[76]

Reaction

Following the incident, The New York Times reported that Al-Zaidi was "embraced around the Arab world."[8] Al-Zaidi found support from his employer,[77] thousands of protesters in Iraq,[8][45] some Iraqi politicians,[50][51] people in Syria,[8] a charity in Libya,[78] and from "around 200 lawyers" including some U.S. citizens.[16] Al-Zaidi's action was criticised by the government of Nouri al-Maliki.[41] After the incident the office of Nouri al-Maliki criticised al-Zaidi's action and "demanded" an on-air apology from Al-Baghdadia TV.[41] Al-Baghdadia TV issued a statement demanding al-Zaidi's release:[77]

Al-Baghdadia television demands that the Iraqi authorities immediately release their stringer Muntadhar al-Zaidi, in line with the democracy and freedom of expression that the American authorities promised the Iraqi people on the ousting of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.... Any measures against Muntazer will be considered the acts of a dictatorial regime.[16][45]

In Tikrit a copper statue of three meters height was dedicated to his action as a monument. It had his shoe's shape and an honouring poem as an inscription. It was designed by Laith al-Amari.[79] The statue was taken down according to police order shortly after erection.[80] Al Zaidi has been named as the world’s third most powerful Arab, in the Arabian Business Power 100 list 2009.[81]

International

Malcolm Smart of Amnesty International said "... the Iraqi authorities have a duty to investigate all allegations of torture or other ill-treatment of Muntadhar al-Zaidi and to prosecute any persons alleged to be responsible for such abuses. The Iraqi authorities should also disclose his whereabouts, ensure that he is permitted prompt and regular access to legal counsel, his family and to any medical attention he requires, and safeguard him from torture or other ill-treatment," he added.[53]

Reporters Without Borders expressed its "regret that [al-Zaidi] used this method of protest against the politics of the American president". It said that "[al-Zaidi] was clearly injured during his arrest" and called for him to be released from custody. It referred to Bush's "relaxed way" of speaking about the incident as a reason for "leniency".[82]

The International Federation of Journalists has said al-Zaidi should be released for humanitarian reasons. "Given the controversy surrounding this incident, we urge the Iraqi security services to guarantee the physical well-being of this journalist, who was clearly injured during his arrest," the statement said. The IFJ said the incident "reflected deep anger at the treatment of Iraqi civilians during US occupation over the past four years of which journalists have been major victims" and that "the journalist might be under threat while in detention "given the record of mistreatment of journalists in custody by US forces."[83]

The Arab Lawyers Union has called for a fair trial for the journalist, with the support of both the Arab League and the Egyptian government. "We urge all human rights organizations and the international society to help save the life of the Iraqi journalist and prevent any physical assault that may target him," union head Sameh Ashour said.[84] Ashour said the union would protect al-Zaidi's life, "which at the moment is under threat."[85]

The Lebanese television channel NTV offered a job to al-Zaidi. NTV said that if al-Zaidi accepted the job offer, that he would be paid "from the moment the first shoe was thrown".[86]

Al-Zaidi's family turned down an invitation by the Venezuelan President to come and live in the Latin American country. "We are grateful to President Hugo Chávez. However we are Iraqis, we live in Iraq," Oudai al-Zaidi said speaking on the behalf of his family.[39]

Former candidate for the President of Pakistan and President of the Pakistan Jurists Association Mian Muhibullah Kakakhel Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of Pakistan said that the action showed how much the international community hates George W. Bush.[87]

On December 15, 2008, al-Zaidi was given a bravery award by Libyan charity group Wa Attassimou. The group urged for al-Zaidi's release.[8][78]

In Syria, al-Zaidi was "hailed as a hero".[8] The Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim, praised the incident, calling it the "best show of retaliation so far".[88] A commentary in the North Korean newspaper Minju Chosun said Bush "deserved" the shoe throwing incident as a result of "failed policy in Iraq".[89]

Al-Zaidi has also been offered a six-door Mercedes,[90] had a song written about him,[91] had his incident reconstructed in an Afghan comedy sketch,[92] and been offered the hand of a man's 20-year-old daughter in marriage.[93] The young woman Amal Saad Gumaa said she likes the idea of being attached to a man she finds so honorable.[94]

On December 29, 2008, activists at the Iraqi consulate in Washington, D.C. delivered a petition calling for the release of al-Zaidi. "If he had wanted to hurt George Bush, he would have chosen a different weapon," a member of Code Pink said. "We want the Iraqi government and the world to know that there is a very good sentiment for him to be set free," said Nick Mottern, director of Consumers for Peace.[95]

The shoes

A Saudi businessman offered US$10 million to buy the shoes thrown by al-Zaidi.[96] There were also calls from throughout the Middle East to place the shoes in an Iraqi museum.[4][97] The exact manufacturer of the shoes has not been confirmed, but they are believed to be made by a Turkish shoemaker. The shoe, Ducati Model 271, first renamed "The Bush Shoe" and later "The Bye-Bye Bush Shoe", is manufactured by the Baydan Shoe Company in Istanbul.[98] However, a producer in Lebanon suggested that it might have made them instead. Many shoes in Iraq are also made in China. Even so, al-Zaidi's brother insisted that the shoes were made in Baghdad by a highly-reputable firm named Alaa Haddad.[99] On December 18, 2008, Iraqi and American security agents looking for explosives examined and then destroyed the shoes.[5]

Incidents inspired by al-Zaidi

On December 17, 2008, Queens resident and Amtrak employee Stephen Millies, a protestor at a meeting of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York City (MTA), tried to throw his shoe at the CEO of the MTA with the statement, "This shoe is for you!" Millies managed to shake off his left shoe before being stopped and detained by MTA Police.[100]

In Canada, protesters threw shoes at a poster of George Bush in front of the U.S. consulate in Montreal during a protest against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On December 20, 2008, protesters in Montreal and Toronto threw shoes at posters of George Bush in front of their respective U.S. consulates to support Muntadhar al-Zaidi, to demand his immediate release, and to celebrate his gesture. The shoe tosses took place in -24°C weather during protests against the U.S. military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and against Canada's involvement in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. At the shoe toss event in Toronto, Ahmed Habib, a refugee from Baghdad, said "We don't think of Muntadhar al-Zaidi as a criminal but, in fact, we think of him as a hero. The only war criminal is George Bush and his buddy Stephen Harper, so shame on the both of them."[101]

On December 20, 2008, Ukrainian reporter Ihor Dmitriv pelted a Ukrainian politician with a shoe when he became angered by the politician's sexist remarks. Speaking in NATO accession, Oleh Soskin, said NATO membership was more favored by the Ukrainian women as they were "the more intelligent" part of the body politic. Dmitriv said his attack was motivated by the Ukrainian leadership's "craziness" and said "a shoe is going to become a leading means (for common people) to influence their leaders."[6]

The anti-war group Code Pink pelted shoes at an effigy of U.S. president George W. Bush outside the White House on December 17, 2008.[102] Protesters presented their shoes at U.S. Embassies around the world to show their support for al-Zaidi.[103]

On January 12, 2009, Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva made fun of the incident and "threatened" to throw his shoes at reporters when visiting Couromoda 2009, a shoes event held in São Paulo.[7]

On January 20, 2009 protesters in the United States shoed an inflatable replica of George W. Bush in replication of al-Zaidi's shoe-throwing incident.[104]

On February 2, 2009, a German protester threw his shoe at Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao as he gave a speech at Cambridge University. The shoe landed on stage a few feet from the premier and the protester was quickly hustled away by security guards.[105]

On February 5, 2009, Israeli Ambassador to Sweden Benny Dagan was hit by a protester's shoe while speaking about the 2009 Gaza War, the shoe throwers reportedly chanted murderer!" and "intifada!".[106]

On March 17, 2009, Canadian protesters in Calgary used shoes as props during their demonstrations, even going so far as to create a "shoe cannon".[107]

The incident has also inspired several online shoe-throwing games,[108] and on the Late Show with David Letterman, the "Great Moments in Presidential Speeches" segment included flying shoes aimed at other presidents (via digitally-altered stock footage).

On 7 April 2009, Union Home Minister of India P. Chidambaram was shoed by Jarnail Singh, a Sikh journalist during a press conference in Delhi. Singh, who works at the Hindi daily Dainik Jagaran was dissatisfied with Chidamabaram's answer to a question on the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) clean chit to Congress leader Jagdish Tytler on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.[109]

On 16 April 2009, Indian Leader of Opposition and Prime Ministerial candidate of National Democratic Alliance, L K Advani was shoed by his own party member, Pawas Agarwal, a former district vice-president of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Katni Town in Madhya Pradesh.[110]

On 23 October 2009, supporters of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threw their shoes at opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi as he visited Tehran during the 2009 Iranian election protests. A fight broke out between supporters of Ahmadinejad and Karroubi and one of the Ahmadinejad supporters threw a shoe at him, which hit him in the face and resulted in his turban falling off.[111]

In December 2009, al-Zaidi was himself ironically shoed by another Iraqi journalist in Paris, who accused him of "working for dictatorship in Iraq".[112]

In February 2010, a 26-year old Kurd with Syrian citizenship tried to shoe Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Sevilla, the shoes however missed Erdogan. While throwing the shoes the man called "long live free Kurdistan."[113][114]

Trial

Al-Zaidi appeared before a judge (not in court but in jail over fears that his injuries could cause anger amongst the public if he was to appear in court)[citation needed] on December 16, 2008, and admitted "aggression against a president." The court decided to keep him in custody. A spokesman for the Iraqi court said that al-Zaidi would face charges of attacking a head of state.[115] Dheyaa al-Saadi, the head of the Iraqi Bar Association and one of its most high-profile attorneys, said that he had volunteered to defend al-Zaidi.[116] Judge Dhiya al-Kenani said the court had refused the journalist's request for bail "for the sake of the investigation and for his own security".[117] According to Abdul Satar Birqadr, spokesman for Iraq's High Judicial Council, al-Zaidi is charged with "assaulting a foreign head of state visiting Iraq."[118]

On December 30, 2008, an Iraqi court said al-Zaidi's trial had been postponed pending an appeal over whether the incident amounted to assault or only insulting a foreign leader. A charge of assault would carry a maximum sentence of 15 years, while charges of insulting a foreign leader carry a maximum sentence of only 3 years. One of al-Zaidi's lawyers said he expected a lengthy trial and a sentence of no less than three years if al-Zaidi is convicted. Dhargham al-Zaidi, said his family would turn to an international court if they found the Iraqi jurisdiction system "biased and unfair."[119] In January 2009, al-Zaidi's lawyers petitioned Swiss authorities for political asylum, arguing that his life is at risk in Iraq.[120]

The trial began before the Central Criminal Court of Iraq on February 20, 2009, which only lasted 90 minutes[10] before being recessed.[121] In testimony before the court, al-Zaidi described his growing frustration as Bush spoke about his victories and achievement at the press conference where the shoe was thrown. As Bush listed the gains made in Iraq during the mid-December news conference, al-Zaidi said he was thinking about the sanctity of mosques being violated, the rape of women, and daily humiliations.[122] Al-Zaidi said Bush's "bloodless and soulless smile" and his joking banter provoked him. "I don't know what accomplishments he was talking about. The accomplishments I could see were the more than 1 million martyrs and a sea of blood. There are more than 5 million Iraqi orphans because of the occupation.... More than a million widows and more than 3 million displaced because of the occupation." al-Zaidi said.[122]"I wanted to restore the pride of the Iraqis in any way possible, apart from using weapons." al-Zaidi said he was tortured, beaten and given electric shocks during his interrogation. Supporters who rallied in front of the court said al-Zaidi should be praised for standing up to Bush rather than punished for his actions.[123] The trial resumed[121] briefly[124] on March 12, 2009 after which sentence was imposed.

Sentencing

On March 12, 2009, al-Zaidi was sentenced to three years of prison for assaulting a foreign leader.[125] Under the law he was charged under, he could have faced up to 15 years in prison for assaulting a visiting head of state during an official visit.[126] His lawyers indicated they expect to appeal the sentence.[125] Dhia Al Saadi, the head of Zaidi's defense team and the Iraqi Lawyers Syndicate, argued that "the court sessions should be made public according to the Iraqi penalties law.[127] "This sentence is harsh and is not in harmony with the law, and eventually the defence team will contest this in the appeals court," Dhia Al Saadi further said.[128] Court spokesman Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar said al-Zaidi received the minimum prison sentence possible under the Saddam Hussein-era law he was charged under and that al-Zaidi could appeal the court's decision.[125]

Upon reading of the sentence, al-Zaidi shouted "long live Iraq."[125] "This judiciary is not just,"[125] al-Zaidi's brother Dargham said. Zaidi's sister shouted "Down with Maliki, the agent of the Americans."[128] Zaidi's brother Uday said he scorns "those who say Iraqi justice is independent" and that the "court was set up according to Paul Bremer decisions."[129] Several family members screamed: "It's an American court... sons of dogs."[130] The family said they would not only appeal but also press ahead with plans to bring torture charges against Bush, Maliki and his bodyguards at a human rights court abroad.[130]

A poll of Iraqis suggested 62 percent of Iraqis regarded al-Zaidi as a "national hero".[126] Maha al-Dori, an Iraqi parliament member, said he felt the ruling showed the judges may have been motivated by political concerns.[131] Iraq's Journalistic Freedoms Observatory said "it is now left to wait for a presidential or prime ministerial pardon, because we cannot accept an Iraqi journalist behind bars."[132]

On April 7, 2009 the sentence was reduced to one year from three years.[11] Judge Abdul Sattar al-Beeraqdar, spokesman for Iraq's Higher Judicial Council, said the court reduced al-Zaidi's sentence because he is young and had no previous criminal record.[133] Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki argued al-Zaidi could have faced 15 years in jail or even execution for insulting a visiting head of state.[134]

Release

Defense attorney Karim al-Shujairi said al-Zaidi would be released on September 14, 2009 after spending nine months in jail, he would be freed early for good behavior.[135] He was released on September 15, 2009 claiming that he had been systematically tortured during his time in jail and one of his front teeth was seen missing. Al-Zaidi said that he had been beaten with electric cables and iron bars and immersed in cold water. On 19 October 2009, while in Switzerland where he expected to have medical treatment for his injuries, he stated, "I suffered a great deal. I still have problems with my teeth, back and other parts of my body where I was tortured."[13] Al-Zaidi also declared, "I am free again, but my homeland is still a prison."[136] On September 15, 2009, al-Zaidi stated "I'm not a hero, I just wanted to degrade Bush, because of the unjust condition that we are living in."[137].

Al-Zaidi humanitarian foundation

Following his release, al-Zaidi went to Geneva and announced that he had started creating a humanitarian agency/foundation. The aim of the agency would be to "build orphanages, a children's hospital, and medical and orthopaedic centres offering free treatment and manned by Iraqi doctors and medical staff."[13] His lawyer said that al-Zaidi "hopes to surf on the wave of support he has gained to do some good."[13]

See also

Notes

a. ^ Alternative transliterations used in Western media: Muthathar, Muntadhar, Muntadar, Muntazer, Muthathi; al-Zeidi also transliterated as "Zeidi" is an Arabic name, meaning abundance or growth or "one who progresses and makes other people progress."[citation needed]

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