Iraqi shoe-thrower trial resumes

The trial of Muntazer al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who was thrust into the global spotlight after throwing his shoes at George W Bush, resumes in Baghdad after a three-week break.

world Updated: Mar 12, 2009 08:29 IST

The trial of Muntazer al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who was thrust into the global spotlight after throwing his shoes at George W Bush, resumes on Thursday in Baghdad after a three-week break.

The hearing against the 30-year old journalist opened at the Iraq Central Criminal Court on February 19, but was adjourned 90 minutes later to determine the nature of the former US president's visit to Iraq on December 14.

"We have postponed the trial so that we can contact the prime minister's office to find out if the visit of the ex-American president Bush was an official visit or not," Judge Abdulamir Hassan al-Rubai had said.

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

Zaidi is charged with aggression against a foreign head of state during an official visit and the issue of whether Bush's visit was actually official could affect the outcome of the trial.

According to article 223 of Iraqi Penal Code, he faces between five to 15 years if found guilty, but should the charge be reduced to attempted assault he faces a prison term of only one to five years.
"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, one of Zaidi's brothers, told AFP.

The Baghdadia television journalist told the court 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.

"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 wrestled him to the ground.
Prior to the start of 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.

First Published: Mar 12, 2009 08:27 IST