Muntadar al-Zeidi throws two shoes at George W. Bush. The only problem I have with Muntadar al-Zeidi is that he missed twice! Other then that Muntadar al-Zeidi should be a hero to the American and Iraqi people!
Bush: Iraq war is not over, more work ahead
by Jennifer Loven - Dec. 14, 2008 08:25 AM
BAGHDAD - His legacy forever linked to an unpopular war, President George W. Bush visited Iraq under intense security Sunday and declared that the long, hard conflict is necessary to protect the United States and give Iraqis hope. "The war is not over," he said.
Bush got a size-10 reminder of the fervent opposition to his policies when a man threw two shoes at him - one after another - during a news conference with Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. "This is the end!" shouted the man, later identified as Muntadar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo, Egypt.
Bush ducked both throws. Neither leader was hit. In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt; Iraqis whacked a statue of Saddam Hussein with their shoes after U.S. marines toppled it to the ground after the 2003 invasion.
"All I can report," Bush joked of the incident, "is a size 10."
The U.S. president visited the Iraqi capital just 37 days before he hands the war off to President-elect Barack Obama, who has pledged to end it. The president wanted to highlight a drop in violence in a nation still riven by ethnic strife and to celebrate a recent U.S.-Iraq security agreement, which calls for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.
"There is still more work to be done," Bush said after his meeting with al-Maliki, adding that the agreement puts Iraq on solid footing.
"The war is not over," Bush said, adding that "it is decisively on it's way to being won."
In many ways, the unannounced trip was a victory lap without a clear victory. Nearly 150,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq fighting a war that is intensely disliked across the globe. More than 4,209 members of the U.S. military have died in the conflict, which has cost U.S. taxpayers $576 billion since it began five years and nine months ago.
Polls show most Americans believe the U.S. erred in invading Iraq in 2003. Bush ordered the nation into war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq while citing intelligence claiming the Mideast nation harbored weapons of mass destruction. The weapons were never found, the intelligence was discredited, Bush's credibility with U.S. voters plummeted and Saddam was captured and executed.
For Bush, the war is the issue around which both he and the country defined his two terms in office. He saw the invasion and continuing fight as a necessary action to protect Americans and fight terrorism. Though his decision won support at first, the public now has largely decided that the U.S. needs to get out of Iraq.
In the news conference with al-Maliki, the U.S. president applauded security gains in Iraq and said that just two years ago "such an agreement seemed impossible."
"There is hope in the eyes of Iraq's young," Bush said. "This is the future of what we've been fighting for."
Said al-Maliki: "Today, Iraq is moving forward in every field."
Air Force One, the president's distinctive powder blue-and-white jetliner, landed at Baghdad International Airport in the afternoon local time after a secretive Saturday night departure from Washington. In a sign of security gains in this war zone, Bush received a formal arrival ceremony - a flourish absent in his three earlier trips.
Bush soon began a rapid-fire series of meetings with top Iraqi leaders.
He met first with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and the country's two vice presidents, Tariq al-Hashemi and Adel Abdul-Mahdi, at the ornate, marble-floored Salam Palace along the shores of the Tigris River. Defending the war, Bush said, "The work hasn't been easy, but it has been necessary for American security, Iraqi hope and world peace."
Later, Bush's motorcade pulled out the heavily fortified Green Zone and crossed over the Tigris so he could meet al-Maliki at the prime minister's palace. A huge orange moon hung low over the horizon as Bush's was ferried quickly through the city.
The two leaders sat down together for probably the last time in person in these roles. They signed ceremonial copy of the security agreement. Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said the trip proved that the U.S.-Iraq relationship was changing "with Iraqis rightfully exercising greater sovereignty" and the U.S. "in an increasingly subordinate role."
The Bush administration and even White House critics credit last year's military buildup with the security gains in Iraq. Last month, attacks fell to the lowest monthly level since the war began in 2003. Still, it's unclear what will happen when the U.S. troops leave. While violence has slowed in Iraq, attacks continue, especially in the north. At least 55 people were killed Thursday in a suicide bombing in a restaurant near Kirkuk.
It was Bush's last trip to the war zone before Obama takes office Jan. 20. Obama won an election largely viewed as a referendum on Bush, who has endured low approval ratings because of the war and more recently, the U.S. recession.
Obama, a Democrat, has promised he will bring all U.S. combat troops back home from Iraq a little over a year into his term, as long as commanders agree a withdrawal would not endanger American personnel or Iraq's security. Obama has said that on his first day as president, he will summon the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the White House and give them a new mission: responsibly ending the war.
Obama has said the drawdown in Iraq would allow him to shift troops and bolster the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Commanders there want at least 20,000 more forces, but cannot get them unless some leave Iraq.
The trip was conducted under heavy security and a strict cloak of secrecy. People who made the 10 1/2-hour trip with the president agreed to tell almost no one about the plans, and the White House released false schedules detailing activities planned for Bush in Washington on Sunday.
The new U.S.-Iraqi security pact, which goes into effect next month, replaces a U.N. mandate that gives the U.S.-led coalition broad powers to conduct military operations and detain people without charge if they were believed to pose a security threat. The bilateral agreement changes some of those terms and calls for all American troops to be withdrawn by the end of 2011, in two stages.
The first stage begins next year, when U.S. troops pull back from Baghdad and other Iraqi cities by the end of June.
Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said Saturday that even after that summer deadline, some U.S. troops will remain in Iraqi cities.
Family: Shoe thrower hates US, Iran role
Dec. 15, 2008 10:13 AM
BAGHDAD - The Iraqi TV reporter who hurled his shoes at George W. Bush was kidnapped once by militants and, separately, detained briefly by the U.S. military - a story of getting hit from all sides that is bitterly familiar to many Iraqis.
Over time, Muntadhar al-Zeidi, a 28-year-old unmarried Shiite, came to hate both the U.S. military occupation and Iran's interference in Iraq, his family told The Associated Press on Monday.
Al-Zeidi's act of defiance Sunday transformed an obscure reporter from a minor TV station into a national hero to many Iraqis fed up with the nearly six-year U.S. presence here, but also fearful that their country will fall under Iran's influence once the Americans leave. Bush was not hit or injured.
Several thousand people demonstrated in Baghdad and other cities to demand al-Zeidi's release. The attack was the talk of the town in coffee shops, business offices and even schools - and a subject across much of the Arab world.
A day after the attack, al-Zeidi's three brothers and one sister gathered in al-Zeidi's simple, one-bedroom apartment in west Baghdad. The home was decorated with a poster of Cuban revolutionary leader Che Guevara, who is widely lionized in the Middle East.
Family members expressed bewilderment over al-Zeidi's action and concern about his treatment in Iraqi custody. But they also expressed pride over his defiance of an American president who many Iraqis believe has destroyed their country.
"I swear to Allah, he is a hero," said his sister, who goes by the nickname Umm Firas, as she watched a replay of her brother's attack on an Arabic satellite station. "May Allah protect him."
The family insisted that al-Zeidi's action was spontaneous - perhaps motivated by the political turmoil that their brother had reported on, plus his personal brushes with violence and the threat of death that millions of Iraqis face daily.
Al-Zeidi joined Al-Baghdadia television in September 2005 after graduating from Baghdad University with a degree in communications. Two years later, he was seized by gunmen while on an assignment in a Sunni district of north Baghdad.
He was freed unharmed three days later after Iraqi television stations broadcast appeals for his release. At the time, al-Zeidi told reporters he did not know who kidnapped him or why, but his family blamed al-Qaida and said no ransom was paid.
In January he was taken again, this time arrested by American soldiers who searched his apartment building, his brother, Dhirgham, said. He was released the next day with an apology, the brother said.
Those experiences helped mold a deep resentment of both the U.S. military's presence here and Iran's pervasive influence over Iraq's cleric-dominated Shiite community, according to his family.
"He hates the American material occupation as much as he hates the Iranian moral occupation," Dhirgham said, alluding to the influence of pro-Iranian Shiite clerics in political and social life. "As for Iran, he considers the regime to be the other side of the American coin."
That's a view widely held among Iraqis - including many Shiites - who believe the Americans and the Iranians have been fighting a proxy war in their country through Tehran's alleged links to Shiite extremists.
Al-Zeidi may have also been motivated by what a colleague described as a boastful, showoff personality.
"He was very boastful, arrogant and always showing off," said Zanko Ahmed, a Kurdish journalist who attended a journalism training course with al-Zeidi in Lebanon. "He tried to raise topics to show that nobody is as smart as he is."
Ahmed recalled that al-Zeidi spoke glowingly of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose followers organized protests Monday to demand his release.
"Regrettably, he didn't learn anything from the course in Lebanon, where we were taught ethics of journalism and how to be detached and neutral," Ahmed said.
Associated Press reporters Muhieddin Rashad in Baghdad and Yahya Barzanji in Sulaimaniyah contributed to this report.
Where Is Muntadar al-Zeidi, the Iraqi Reporter Who Threw His Shoes at Bush?
Muntadar al-Zeidi, an Iraqi correspondent for Al Baghdadiya, an Iraqi-owned TV station based in Cairo, Egypt, threw his shoes at George W. Bush at a press conference in Baghdad held to celebrate the adoption of the US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement. Zeidi shouted, "This is a farewell kiss, you dog. This is from the widows, the orphans, and those who were killed in Iraq."
Bush said, "That's what happens in a free society," in a typical right-wing attempt to pass off all protests against the United States government as proof of American freedom. Echoing Bush, Fox News commented: "You can only imagine his fate if Saddam Hussein were still in charge."
"Pres Bush Ducks When Iraqi Man Throws His Shoes at Him," Fox News, 14 December 2008
But according to the New York Times (Steven Lee Myers and Alissa J. Rubin, "Iraqi Journalist Hurls Shoes at Bush," 14 December 2008):
Mr. Maliki's security agents jumped on the man, wrestled him to the floor and hustled him out of the room. They kicked him and beat him until "he was crying like a woman," said Mohammed Taher, a reporter for Afaq, a television station owned by the Dawa Party, which is led by Mr. Maliki. Mr. Zaidi was then detained on unspecified charges.
The television channel broadcast a request for Mr. Zaidi's release in the name of democracy and freedom of speech. "Any procedure against Muntader will remind us of the behavior of the dictatorship and their violent actions, random detentions and mass graves," the channel said. "Baghdadia TV channel also demands that the international and Iraqi television organizations cooperate in seeking the release of Muntader Zaidi."
Associated Press moreover reports ("BUSH NOTEBOOK: Bush Ducks Shoes in Baghdad," 14 December 2008) that Muntadar al-Zeidi has not been heard from since then and Al Baghdadiya is concerned that his life may be in danger:
"I am trying to reach Muntadar since the incident, but in vain," said [Al-Baghdadia's Baghdad manager] Fityan Mohammed. "His phone is switched off."
The station issued a statement on the air Sunday night asking the Iraqi government to release al-Zeidi "to spare his life."
"The station calls on journalists all over the world to express their solidarity for the release of al-Zeidi," it said.
Where is Muntadar al-Zeidi?
BUSH NOTEBOOK: Bush ducks shoes in Baghdad
BAGHDAD (AP) — It gives fresh meaning to the phrase shooed away.
President George W. Bush ducked a pair of shoes hurled at his head — one shoe after the other — in the middle of a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Both shoes narrowly missed their target and thumped loudly against the wall behind the leaders.
"Don't worry about it," the president said as the room erupted into chaos.
Iraqi reporters started shouting what Bush later explained were apologies for the incident.
"So what if the guy threw a shoe at me?" Bush said, comparing the action to political protests in the United States.
"If you want the facts, it was a size 10," he joked.
The shoe attack came as Bush and al-Maliki were about to shake hands. The assailant — later identified as television correspondent Muntadar al-Zeidi — leapt from his chair and hurled his footwear at the president, who was about 20 feet away.
"This is a farewell kiss, you dog," he yelled in Arabic. "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."
The crowd descended on al-Zeidi, who works for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo, Egypt. He was wrestled to the ground by security officials and then hauled away, moaning as they departed the room. Later, a trail of fresh blood could be seen on the carpet, although the source was not known.
In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt. When U.S. Marines toppled Saddam Hussein's statue on Firdos Square in 2003, the assembled crowd whacked it with their shoes.
When Bush met with reporters later aboard Air Force One, he had a joke prepared: "I didn't know what the guy said but I saw his `sole.'" Later, he said: "I'm going to be thinking of shoe jokes for a long time. I haven't heard any good ones yet."
Al-Baghdadia's Baghdad manager told the AP he had no idea what prompted his reporter to go on the attack.
"I am trying to reach Muntadar since the incident, but in vain," said Fityan Mohammed. "His phone is switched off."
The station issued a statement on the air Sunday night asking the Iraqi government to release al-Zeidi "to spare his life."
"The station calls on journalists all over the world to express their solidarity
Bush's Iraq-Afghan farewell tour marred by dissent
By JENNIFER LOVEN
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — President George W. Bush wrapped up a whirlwind trip to two war zones Monday that in many ways was a victory lap without a clear victory. A signature event occurred when an Iraqi reporter hurled two shoes at Bush, declaring: "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."
The president visited the Iraqi capital just 37 days before he hands the war off to his successor, Barack Obama, who has pledged to end it. The president wanted to highlight a drop in violence and to celebrate a recent U.S.-Iraq security agreement, which calls for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.
"The war is not over," Bush said, but "it is decisively on its way to being won."
Bush then traveled to Afghanistan where he spoke to U.S. soldiers and Marines at a hangar on the tarmac at Bagram Air Base. The rally for over a thousand military personnel took place in the dark, cold pre-dawn hours. Bush was greeted by loud cheers from the troops.
"Afghanistan is a dramatically different country than it was eight years ago," he said. "We are making hopeful gains."
But the president's message on progress in the region was having trouble competing with the videotaped image of the angry Iraqi who hurled his shoes at Bush in a near-miss, shouting in Arabic, "This is your farewell kiss, you dog!" The reporter was later identified as Muntadar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo, Egypt.
In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt. Iraqis whacked a statue of Saddam with their shoes after U.S. Marines toppled it to the ground following the 2003 invasion.
Reaction in Iraq was swift but mixed, with some condemning the act and others applauding it. Television news stations throughout Iraq repeatedly showed footage of the incident, and newspapers carried headline stories.
In Baghdad's Shiite slum of Sadr City, supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for protests against President Bush and demanded the release of the reporter, who was jailed after throwing his shoes. Thousands took to the streets Monday, chanting, "Bush, Bush, listen well: Two shoes on your head."
The Iraqi government condemned the act and demanded an on-air apology from Al-Baghdadia television, the Iraqi-owned station that employs Muntadar al-Zeidi. The reporter was taken into custody and reportedly was being held for questioning by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's guards and is being tested for alcohol and drugs.
"It harmed the reputation of Iraqi journalists and Iraqi journalism in general," according to a statement released by the government.
Other Arab journalists and commentators, fed up with U.S. policy in the Middle East and Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003 to topple Saddam, echoed al-Zeidi's sentiments Monday. Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the influential London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, wrote on the newspaper's Web site that the incident was "a proper goodbye for a war criminal."
After word spread of the shoe attack, Afghan reporters had gathered at the presidential palace in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, before a news conference by Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Some of the reporters — a collegial bunch that sees one another several times a week — egged on one of their colleagues, jokingly trying to pressure the television reporter into taking off his shoe and hurling it once the U.S. president arrived. He did not.
Karzai's deputy spokesman, Saimak Herwai, told Afghan reporters that they had to address Bush as "His Excellency," an honorary title not typically used with U.S. presidents. The request was followed by some, not by others.
Bush then took a helicopter ride to Kabul to meet with Karzai.
After their meeting, Bush said he told Karzai: "You can count on the United States. Just like you've been able to count on this administration, you'll be able to count on the next administration as well."
The mixed reactions to Bush in both countries emphasized the uncertain situations Bush is leaving behind in the region.
In Iraq, nearly 150,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, protecting the fragile democracy. More than 4,209 members of the U.S. military have died and $576 billion has been spent since the war began five years and nine months ago. The Bush administration and even White House critics credit last year's military buildup with the security gains in Iraq. Last month, attacks fell to the lowest monthly level since the war began in 2003.
In Afghanistan, there are about 31,000 U.S. troops and commanders have called for up to 20,000 more. The fight is especially difficult in southern Afghanistan, a stronghold of the Taliban where violence has risen sharply this year.
It was Bush's last trip to the war zones before Obama takes office Jan. 20. Obama, a Democrat, has promised he will bring all U.S. combat troops back home from Iraq a little over a year into his term, as long as commanders agree a withdrawal would not endanger American personnel or Iraq's security. Obama has said the drawdown in Iraq would allow him to shift troops and bolster the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.
It's unclear what will happen in Iraq when the U.S. troops leave. While violence has slowed in Iraq, attacks continue, especially in the north.
Bush was traveling back to Washington in the early hours Monday.
After the shoe-throwing incident, White House press secretary Dana Perino suffered an eye injury when she was hit in the face with a microphone during the melee.
Bush, who has grown used to protests of his Iraq policy, brushed off the incident. He said, "So what if a guy threw his shoe at me?"
Associated Press writer Qassim Abdul Zahra in Baghdad contributed to this report.
Shoe-Hurling Iraqi Becomes a Folk Hero
By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS and SHARON OTTERMAN
Published: December 15, 2008
BAGHDAD — A day after an Iraqi television journalist threw his shoes at President Bush at a news conference in Baghdad on Sunday, his act of defiance toward the American commander-in-chief reverberated throughout Iraq and across the Arab world.
In Sadr City, the sprawling Baghdad suburb that has seen some of the most intense fighting between insurgents and American soldiers since the 2003 invasion, thousands of people marched in his defense. In Syria, he was hailed as a hero. In Libya, he was given an award for courage.
Across much of the Arab world on Monday, the shoe-throwing incident generated front page headlines and continuing television news coverage. A thinly veiled glee could be discerned in much of the reporting, especially in the places where anti-American sentiment runs deepest.
Muntader al-Zaidi, 29, the correspondent for an independent Iraqi television station who threw his black dress shoes at President Bush, remained in Iraqi custody on Monday.
While he has not been formally charged, Iraqi officials said he faces up to seven years in prison for committing an act of aggression against a visiting head of state.
Hitting someone with a shoe is a deep insult in the Arab world, signifying that the person being struck is as low as the dirt underneath the sole of a shoe. Compounding the insult were Mr. Zaidi’s words as he hurled his footwear at President Bush: “This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog!” While calling someone a dog is universally harsh, among Arabs, who traditionally consider dogs unclean, those words were an even stronger slight.
The incident has been a source of embarrassment for the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who, in a statement on Monday, called the shoe throwing a “a shameful savage act” and demanded a public apology from al-Baghdadia, the independent satellite channel that employs Mr. Zaidi.
“The act damaged the reputation of the Iraqi journalists and journalism in general,” the statement said.
As of Monday night, no apology from the station was forthcoming. Instead, the network posted an image of Mr. Zaidi in the corner of the screen for much of the day. Telephone callers were invited to phone in their opinions, and the vast majority said they approved of his actions.
Opponents of the continued American presence in Iraq turned Mr. Zaidi’s detention Monday into a rallying cry. Support for the detained journalist crossed religious, ethnic and class lines in Iraq — vaulting him to near folk hero status.
"I swear by God that all Iraqis with their different nationalities are glad about this act," said Yaareb Yousif Matti, a 45-year-old teacher from Mosul, a northern city that has is contested by Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen.
In Samarra, one of the centers of the Sunni insurgency against American forces, Mr. Zaidi received nearly unanimous approval from people interviewed Monday.
"Although that action was not expressed in a civilized manner, it showed the Iraqi’s feelings, which oppose American occupation," said Dr. Qutaiba Rajaa, a 58-year old physician.
In Sadr City, thousands of marchers on Monday called for an immediate American withdrawal from Iraq. The demonstrators burned American flags and waved shoes attached to long poles in a show of support for Mr. Zaidi.
In Najaf, several hundred people gathered on a central square to protest President Bush’s Sunday visit to Iraq, and demonstrators threw their shoes at a passing American military convoy.
But praise for Mr. Zaidi was not universal. His action ran counter to deeply held Iraqi traditions of hospitality toward guests, even if they are enemies. And those who have cooperated or welcomed the American presence in Iraq were far more apt to side with the government in their condemnation.
Ahmad Abu Risha, the head of the Awakening Council in Anbar Province, a group of local tribal leaders that started a wave of popular opposition against Al Qaeda fighters in Iraq, said that he condemned what happened “because the American president is the guest of all Iraqis. The Iraqi government has to choose good journalists to attend such conferences.”
“This is unsuitable action by an Iraqi journalist,’ said Kamal Wahbi, a 49-year-old engineer in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya, where pro-American sentiment is strong. “His action served terrorism and radical national extremism. I think he could send the same message by asking Bush embarrassing questions.”
Witnesses said that Mr. Zaidi had been severely beaten by security officers on Sunday after being tackled at the press conference and dragged out. One of his brothers, Maythem al-Zaidi, said Monday that the family had not heard from Mr. Zaidi since his arrest, and that a police officer who picked up Mr. Zaidi’s cellphone at midnight on Sunday had threatened the family.
It was unclear whether Mr. Zaidi had planned his actions beforehand, or whether — as his brother said — he had become infuriated by President’s Bush’s words of farewell to Iraqis and made a spontaneous decision to insult him.
Saif al-Deen, 25, an editor at the Baghdadia television network in Cairo, said Mr. Zaidi had been planning some sort of protest against President Bush for nearly a year.
"I remember at the end of 2007, he told me, ’You will see how I will take revenge on the criminal Bush in my personal way about the crimes that he has committed against innocent Iraqi people," Mr. Deen said. He said he tried to talk his friend out of doing anything at the time, but that "he insisted he would do it.", Around the Arab world, the shoe throwing became the topic of the moment. In Syria, Mr. Zaidi’s face was broadcast on the state television network, with Syrians calling in throughout the day to share their admiration for his gesture. Lawyers volunteered to represent him by the dozen.
In Lebanon, reactions varied by political affiliation, but curiosity about the episode was universal. An American visitor to a school in Beirut’s southern suburb, where the Shiite militant group Hezbollah is popular, was besieged with questions from teachers and students alike, who wanted to know what Americans thought about the insult.
“It’s the talk of the city,” said Ibrahim Mousawi, a Beirut-based journalist and political analyst affiliated with Hezbollah. “Everyone is proud of this man, and they’re saying he did it in our name.”
In Libya, Mr. Zaidi was given a bravery award on Monday by a Libyan charity group chaired by leader Muammar el-Qaddafi’s daughter, Reuters reported.
The charity group, Wa Attassimou, also urged the Iraqi government to release Mr. Zaidi.
"Waatassimou group has taken the decision to give Muntader al-Zaidi the courage award ... because what he did represents a victory for human rights across the world," the group, headed by Mr. Qaddafi’s daughter, Aicha, said in a statement.
Timothy Williams reported from Baghdad, and Sharon Otterman from New York. Reporting was contributed by Atheer Kakan, Suadad al-Salhy, Mudafer Husseini, Alissa J. Rubin and Eric Owles from Baghdad, Iraqi employees of The New York Times from Mosul, Samarra and Najaf, and Robert F. Worth from Beirut, Lebanon.
December 15, 2008, 8:29 am
Brother Explains Shoe-Tossing Iraqi Journalist’s Anger
By Riyadh Muhammad
BAGHDAD — The brother of Muntader al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush during a joint press conference on Sunday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said Monday that he was “proud of his brother — as all Iraqis would be.”
Muntader al-Zaidi remains in Iraqi custody. When his brother, Maythem al-Zaidi, 28, called his cell phone at midnight, a man claiming to be one of the prime minister’s bodyguards answered. Maythem al-Zaidi said that the bodyguard threatened, “that they will get us all.”
Hitting someone with a shoe is a particularly strong rebuke in Iraqi culture. Although the president was uninjured, the incident overshadowed media coverage of the trip in the Arab world. And it has transformed Muntader al-Zaidi into a symbolic figure in the debate about the American military’s presence in Iraq.
Maythem al-Zaidi said his brother had not planned to throw his shoes prior to Sunday. “He was provoked when Mr. Bush said [during the news conference] this is his farewell gift to the Iraqi people,” he said. A colleague of Muntader al-Zaidi’s at al-Baghdadiya satellite channel, however, said the correspondent had been “planning for this from a long time. He told me that his dream is to hit Bush with shoes,” said the man, who would not give his name.
Muntader al-Zaidi appears to have a long-standing dislike of the United States presence in Iraq. He used to finish his reports by saying he was in “the occupied Baghdad.” His brother said that he hates the occupation so strongly that he canceled his wedding, saying: “I will marry when the occupation is over.”
The correspondent for Al Baghdadiya, an independent Iraqi television station, had previously been detained in November 2007 for two weeks by “a particular party” — his brother didn’t reveal whether American or Iraqi –- after videotaping the scene of an improvised explosive device that targeted an American Humvee. He was held again two months later for several hours by the American army without charges, his brother said. Other reports said he had been kidnapped by Shiite militants.
Muntader al-Zaidi was the head of the student union under Saddam Hussein and he earned a diploma as a mechanic from a technical institute before becoming a journalist. He worked at al-Qasim al-Mushterek newspaper, an Iraqi daily founded after the 2003 invasion, then he joined al-Diyar satellite channel, an Iraqi channel founded after the war. Two years later, he joined al-Baghdadiya satellite channel, another Iraqi channel, which is based in Cairo.
Maythem al-Zaidi contacted a judge to ask him if what his brother did is a crime under Iraqi law. The judge told him that he might serve two years in prison or pay a fine for insulting a president of foreign country unless Mr. Bush withdrew the case. “If they manage to imprison Muntader, there are millions of him all over Iraq and the Arab world,” Maythem al-Zaidi said.
Maythem al-Zaidi said has been contacted from about 100 Iraqi and foreign lawyers offering their services free of charge — including Saddam Hussein’s lawyer Khalil al-Dulaymi. When asked if he will accept Mr. al-Dulaymi’s services, he replied, “Why not, we are all Iraqis.”
The Rusafa office of Moktada al-Sadr organized a demonstration in Sadr City to support the shoe thrower. Across Iraq, everyone seems to have an opinion about the case.
According to his brother, Muntader al-Zaidi is “a calm man.” Both of his parents are dead, and he has 10 other siblings. Maythem al-Zaidi said that his brother is politically independent, but several people who know him mentioned that he was a Baathist who turned into a Sadrist after the war.
Meanwhile, al-Baghdadiya satellite channel’s Baghdad bureau chief is not responding to reporters to comment on the incident and he prevented all his staff of doing so.
Shoe-thrower in Iraqi judicial custody
Dec. 16, 2008 06:25 AM
BAGHDAD - The journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush was handed over to the Iraqi judiciary, an Iraqi official said Tuesday, a move that ordinarily signals the start of criminal proceedings.
Hundreds took to the streets Tuesday for a second day to demand the release of Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who gained folk hero status when he hurled both his shoes at Bush during a news conference Sunday in Baghdad.
Al-Zeidi was initially held by the prime minister's guards and later turned over to the Iraqi army's Baghdad command. The command, in turn, handed him over to the judiciary, the official said on condition of anonymity because he wasn't supposed to release the information.
The official would not elaborate, but referring the case to the judiciary usually signals the beginning of a lengthy process that could end in a criminal trial. Cases referred to the judiciary are given to a judge who reviews the evidence and recommends whether to hold a trial or release the defendant.
Another panel then sets a trial date and appoints judges to hear the case. The process can take months.
Earlier, Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said al-Zeidi could face charges of insulting a foreign leader and the Iraqi prime minister, who was standing next to Bush when the shoes were thrown. The offense carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail.
Many Iraqis, however, believe al-Zeidi was a hero for insulting an American president widely blamed for the chaos that has engulfed their country since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.
In Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, located north of Baghdad, an estimated 1,000 protesters carried banners and chanted slogans demanding al-Zeidi's release.
A couple of hundred more also protested Tuesday in Nasiriyah, a Shiite city about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, and Fallujah, a Sunni area west of the capital.
"Muntadhar al-Zeidi has expressed the feelings and ambitions of the Iraqi people toward the symbol of tyranny," said Nassar Afrawi, a protester in Nasiriyah.
In Baghdad, Noureddin al-Hiyali, a lawmaker of the main Sunni bloc in parliament, defended al-Zeidi's actions and said he believed the reporter was likely motivated by the invasion of Iraq, the "dismantling of the Iraqi government, destroying the infrastructure," - all events he blamed on the Bush administration.
"International law approves peoples' right to resist occupation using all means and Mr. Muntadhar al-Zeidi endeavored to resist occupation in his own manner," al-Hiyali said.
He urged the government to take that into consideration when deciding what to do with al-Zeidi.
The head of the Iraqi Union of Journalists described al-Zeidi's action as "strange and unprofessional" but urged Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to give him clemency.
"Even if he has committed a mistake, the government and the judiciary are broad-minded, and we hope they consider his release because he has a family, and he is still young," Mouyyad al-Lami told AP Television News. "We hope this case ends before going to court."
The perception of al-Zeidi as a hero reflects Arab animosity toward Bush for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and dissatisfaction with the president's handling of foreign policy matters in the Middle East.
That hostility has persisted even though violence has dropped by more than 80 percent in Iraq since earlier this year when car bombings and gunfights throughout the country were rampant.
Nevertheless, Iraqi security forces and U.S. troops continue to be targeted by insurgents.
A roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi police patrol exploded in central Baghdad's Andalus Square Tuesday, wounding three police officers and three civilians, said Iraqi police officer Salam Mohammed.
The U.S. military said in a written statement that troops killed three suspected insurgents and detained three others in separate operations targeting al-Qaida networks in northern Iraq.
Also Tuesday, the U.S. military announced it had transferred the last 10 female detainees in its custody in Iraq to the authorities the day before.
A U.S. statement said the women have either been convicted of a security-related offense or are due to stand trial in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq.
The U.S. still holds about 15,500 detainees, down dramatically from the high of about 26,000 in November 2007.
The U.S.-Iraqi security agreement that goes into effect next month requires the United States to hand over detainees wanted by the Iraqis and release the rest.
Shoe toss expresses Arab rage at Bush
Cultural insult reveals deep-seated bitterness
by Robert H. Reid and Lee Keath - Dec. 16, 2008 12:00 AM
BAGHDAD - Iraqis and other Arabs erupted in glee Monday at the shoe attack on President Bush.
Far from a joke, many in the Mideast saw the act by an Iraqi journalist as heroic, expressing the deep, personal contempt many feel for the American leader they blame for years of bloodshed, chaos and the suffering of civilians.
Images of Bush ducking the fast-flying shoes at a Baghdad news conference, aired repeatedly on Arab satellite-TV networks, were cathartic for many in the Middle East, who for years have felt that their own leaders kowtow to the U.S. president. So the sight of an average Arab standing up and making a public show of resentment was stunning. The pride, joy and bitterness it uncorked illustrated how many Arabs place their anger on Bush personally for what they see as a litany of crimes, chief among them the turmoil in Iraq and tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths since the 2003 U.S. invasion.
The reaction explains, in part, the relief among Arabs over Barack Obama's election victory, seen as a repudiation of the Bush era. But it also highlights the task the next president will face in repairing America's image in the Mideast, where distrust of the U.S. has hampered a range of American policies, from containing Iran to pushing the peace process and democratic reform.
Some Iraqis were appalled by the act, including Iraqi Kurdish lawmaker Abdullah al-Alayawi, who called it "irresponsible conduct" and an affront to the Iraqi people. But such voices were drowned out by those who felt it was time someone stood up to Bush.
"(He) got what he deserves," said Raed Mansi, 52, a Jordanian contractor in Amman.
"I hope he got the message loud and clear: that he's loathed for his wrongdoing, for killing Muslim women and children in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine," Mansi added.
Some regional-TV channels aired the footage from Sunday's news conference more than a dozen times in several hours. The scene bounced around Internet networking sites like YouTube and Facebook, showing Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi standing, hurling both his shoes at Bush and shouting in Arabic: "This is a farewell kiss, you dog! This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq!"
Shoes hold a special place in the Arab lexicon of insults as a show of contempt, effectively saying, "You're lower than the dirt on my shoes." Even sitting with the sole of a shoe pointed at another person is seen as disrespectful.
The hurling of shoes at Bush on his last visit to Iraq as president made an ironic bookend to one of the first images after the 2003 U.S. invasion, when Iraqi opponents of deposed leader Saddam Hussein toppled one of his statues in Baghdad and hit it with their shoes.
Zeidi attained instant hero status around the Arab world. At one Baghdad elementary school, a geography teacher asked her students if they had seen the footage of the shoe-throwing, then told them, "All Iraqis should be proud of this Iraqi brave man, Muntadhar. History will remember him forever."
In Baghdad's Shiite slum of Sadr City, thousands of supporters of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr burned American flags in protest of Bush and called for the release of Zeidi, a 28-year-old Shiite who works for the private Iraqi TV station Al-Baghdadia.
What made Zeidi's defiance particularly resonant for many was their anger at autocratic Arab leaders whom they have considered slavish followers of Bush's policies in the Middle East.
Abdel-Sattar Qassem, a Palestinian political-science professor at the West Bank's An Najah University, wrote in an online commentary: "Bush wanted to end his bloody term hearing compliments and welcoming words from his collaborators in the Arab and Islamic world. But a shoe from a real Arab man summed up Bush's black history and told the entire world that the Arabs hold their head high."
The Iraq war is the most prominent cause of Arab resentment of Bush. Even many who were outraged at Shiite and Sunni militant groups for the killing of civilians and sectarian strife that tore the country apart ultimately blamed Bush for unleashing the chaos. Some accuse his administration of fueling Shiite-Sunni tensions across the region.
More broadly, nearly every U.S. policy in the region became seen as part of a campaign to divide or subjugate Muslim nations, from Iran and Syria to Sudan and Somalia.
The Bush administration's "war on terror" was seen as a war on Muslims and Arabs in general, an image fueled by civilian deaths in Afghanistan and, in particular, the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.
Bush was seen as heavily favoring Israel over the Palestinians. His administration's campaign to isolate the Palestinian militant group Hamas translated to the Arab public as an attempt to starve Palestinians in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
Secret Service faces questions after Bush shoe incident
Agency officials say they are reviewing the Iraq assault but believe agents responded appropriately. Others say minor changes in procedure are likely.
By Julian E. Barnes
December 16, 2008
Reporting from Washington -- A day after President Bush was nearly struck in the head by flying footwear at a Baghdad news conference, U.S. Secret Service officials faced questions Monday about how an Iraqi television reporter was able to hurl not one but two shoes at the president without the agents responsible for protecting him being able to move into the line of fire.
Secret Service officials said they were reviewing the episode, including the procedures used by agents guarding Bush during his unannounced visit to Baghdad. But officials said they believed the agents reacted appropriately in a situation where all those present in the room had already undergone intensive security screening.
Nonetheless, some security experts and former agents who reviewed tapes of the assault predicted that it would lead to minor changes to improve procedures for safeguarding the president.
"They will probably make a decision to have more close-in agents, right around the president," said Ronald T. Williams, a former Secret Service agent. "They will make some adjustments, so if a shoe is thrown again, they can intercept it, or at least give the president cover."
Secret Service officials said their agents began moving as soon as the first shoe was thrown. Ed Donovan, a spokesman for the agency, said the videos show agents quickly moving in from the sides of the room.
"We think the response was appropriate," he said. "You can see agents reacting after the first shoe was thrown."
Everyone at the news conference, Donovan said, had already passed through several layers of security and had been searched multiple times. But he added that the agency would nevertheless examine its performance.
"We are our own harshest critics," he said. "This will be reviewed to see if there is anything we can do differently. We always strive to make ourselves better as an agency."
Patrick J. Lennon, another former agent, said that after he saw the video, his impression was that the agents seemed to react more slowly than he would have expected.
"I thought they would have responded after the first shoe," Lennon said.
The agents guarding Bush were not able to immediately get in front of him because they were positioned at the side of the room, not beside him, as they would be if he was working a rope line, Lennon said. Luckily, he added, Bush moved quickly.
"Thank God, Bush apparently played a little dodge ball when he was younger," said Lennon, who heads a security consulting firm in Rockville, Md. "His reflexes are quick. I was proud of him."
Joseph J. Funk, also a former agent, said that when he first watched a tape of the incident, he thought the agents should have reacted more quickly, at least fast enough to stop the second shoe.
But, as he studied the video further, he changed his mind.
"In a perfect world, they would have been on the guy before he threw the first shoe," Funk said. "But after looking at the tapes, [the throws] were pretty quick, and they were one right after the other. I doubt any security force or any law enforcement could have reacted in time to stop the second shoe."
After the second shoe was thrown, the agents tackled the assailant, shoving him to the ground.
Funk and other former agents praised the president's detail for not overreacting or shooting the shoe thrower.
Unless a hurled object has the potential to kill a president, agents will move to physically restrain the assailant rather than use deadly force, said Funk, whose Severna Park, Md., firm, U.S. Safety & Security, helped provide protection to President-elect Barack Obama early in the campaign.
"Given the fact you are in a crowded room, the collateral damage would have been extensive," Funk said.
The Baghdad incident also illustrates other Secret Service training protocols. Tape of it shows how agents moved toward the president and other parts of the room as several tackled the Iraqi reporter, aided by other journalists and Iraqi security personnel. Williams, who now runs Talon Executive Services in Fountain Valley, said agents are trained that a first attacker could stage a diversion by hurling something -- like a shoe -- creating a clear, lethal shot for a second attacker.
"It is like playing zone defense," Williams said. "Not all agents are going to rush that guy. Because they are trained to watch for diversion."
Iraqi reporters attending the news conference were searched at least three times before entering, and their credentials had been screened. Both White House and Iraqi officials believe having bodyguards hovering around the president would have sent the wrong message.
"It would give the appearance that things are the same as Saddam's reign," Funk said.
Former agents acknowledged that it was nonetheless embarrassing for the agency that the reporter was able to throw two shoes at Bush. But they noted that ultimately there was no real threat.
"Would the service view this as embarrassing? Yes. Will they take steps in the future? Probably. But these kind of things do happen," Williams said.
"If he came in and was able to secret a weapon -- then we have a real, real problem," he said.
Barnes is a reporter in our Washington bureau.
Iraqi official says he's quitting over shoe-tosser
Dec. 17, 2008 08:25 AM
BAGHDAD - Iraq's parliament speaker announced his resignation Wednesday after a parliamentary session descended into chaos as lawmakers argued about whether to free a journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush.
The speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, has threatened to resign before and has been suspended for embarrassing the prime minister with erratic behavior.
On Wednesday, after arguments erupted among lawmakers over the fate of the journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi, the speaker said: “I have no honor leading this parliament and I announce my resignation.”
Al-Zeidi's family went to the Central Criminal Court expecting to attend a court hearing for him, said his brother, Dhargham. He added they were told the investigative judge went to see him in jail and that they should return in eight days.
“That means my brother was severely beaten and they fear that his appearance could trigger anger at the court,” he added.
Iraqi officials and another brother have denied that the journalist suffered severe injuries after he was wrestled to the floor after throwing the shoes during a press conference by Bush on Sunday.
The reporter shouted in Arabic, “This is your farewell kiss, you dog!” In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of deep contempt, and his actions have drawn huge demonstrations of support among many in Iraq and throughout the Arab world.
In parliament, lawmakers had gathered to review a resolution calling for all non-U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq by the end of June but those loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr interrupted the session.
They said parliament should focus on al-Zeidi's case rather than the proposed legislation. The argument escalated with lawmakers screaming at each other, and finally leading al-Mashhadani to announce his resignation, said Wisam al-Zubaidi, an adviser to Khalid al-Attiyah, parliament's deputy speaker.
An official in the speaker's office said he was unsure about the seriousness of al-Mashhadani's announcement, but says it may have been made because he was nervous. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Al-Zeidi reportedly spoke glowingly of al-Sadr, whose followers organized protests Monday to demand his release.
Al-Mashhadani, a member of the minority Sunni faction, has previously threatened to quit and has been suspended for embarrassing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki with erratic behavior.
Al-Zeidi was held for allegedly insulting a foreign leader, a charge that carries a maximum of two years in prison.
Under the Iraqi legal system, the case is given to a judge who investigates the allegation, weighs the evidence and recommends whether to order a trial.
The process can take months, and it is normal for initial hearings to be conducted informally rather than in a formalized setting common in U.S. and British courts.
Thousands have taken to the streets in the days since al-Zeidi's arrest, heralding his actions and calling for his release.
About 1,500 demonstrators took to the streets Wednesday in the Baghdad Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah to demand his release. Al-Zeidi was kidnapped in the same neighborhood last year and was freed unharmed a few days later.
“This is a natural reaction to the American acts of tyranny and occupation in Iraq,” said demonstrator Khalil al-Obeidi a resident of Azamiyah said.
Shiite lawmaker Bahaa al-Araji said he expected al-Zeidi, who's in his late 20s, to be released on bail in the next few days while the investigative judge considers the case.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi - An American an Iraqi Hero! Most Americans hate Bush, like most Arabs!
Shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist's trial postponed
Dec. 30, 2008 06:43 AM
BAGHDAD - The trial of a journalist who has been hailed as a hero in the Arab world after throwing his shoes at President George W. Bush was postponed on Tuesday pending a review of the case by a higher court, a spokesman for Iraq's Higher Judicial Council said.
The trial of Muntadhar al-Zeidi was to begin Wednesday on charges of assaulting a foreign leader, which his defense team said carried a maximum sentence of 15 years. But court spokesman Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar said that the trial was been postponed pending an appellate court ruling on what charges the journalist should face.
Bayrkdar said the defense team was seeking a lesser charge. Two of his lawyers said they want a reduced charge of insulting a foreign leader - which carries a maximum sentence of three years.
"There is a difference between assault and insult, al-Zeidi wanted to express his objection to the occupation. So the case is within context of an insult and not an intention to kill," his lawyer Diaa al-Saadi told Associated Press Television News.
If the appellate court decides to reduce the charges, then al-Saadi said al-Zeidi could be released on bail. It was unclear when the appellate court would issue its ruling.
Al-Zeidi threw his shoes at Bush during a Dec. 14 joint news conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The gesture of contempt for the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq made al-Zeidi a folk hero in Iraq and thousands of people have demonstrated for his release.
"According to the appeals raised by Muntadhar al-Zeidi's lawyers to the Federal Appeals Court, the Central Criminal Court has decided to postpone the trial sessions until the Federal Appeals Court issues a decision about these appeals, then another date for the trial will be set," Bayrkdar said.
Before the postponement was announced, one of al-Zeidi's lawyers told Associated Press Television News that he expected a lengthy trial and a sentence of no less than three years if he is convicted.
Al-Zeidi's brother, Dhargham al-Zeidi, said that the family would turn to an international court if they found the Iraqi jurisdiction system "biased and unfair."
"If the Iraqi jurisdiction system will be fair and transparent then its fine, but if it will be politicized," he said, then "we will rely on an international court."
The case transformed al-Zeidi from a little-know television journalist into an international celebrity for defying the U.S. leader, but it also embarrassed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who was standing next to Bush when the shoes were thrown.
Last week the Iraqi leader sought to undermine the journalist's popularity by saying the he had confessed that the mastermind of the attack was a militant known for slitting his victims' throats.
Al-Maliki said that in a letter of apology to him al-Zeidi wrote that a known militant had induced him to throw the shoes. The alleged instigator has never been identified and neither al-Maliki nor any of his officials have provided further explanation. The letter was never made public.
The journalist's family denied the claim and alleged that al-Zeidi was tortured into writing the letter.
His brother Uday al-Zeidi said he met the journalist in prison about a week after the incident and that there had been no regret for throwing the shoes.
He claimed his brother had a missing tooth and cigarette burns on his ears. He also said his brother told him that jailers also doused him with cold water while he was naked.
The investigating judge, Dhia al-Kinani, has said that the journalist was beaten around the face and eyes when he was wrestled to the ground after throwing the shoes.
There has been no independent corroboration that al-Zeidi was abused in custody, and Iraqi officials have denied al-Zeidi has been abused.
The show-throwing incident also led to a political crisis that resulted in the resignation of parliament's abrasive Sunni speaker and delayed by a week approval of key a vote on whether non-U.S. foreign troops would be allowed to stay in Iraq beyond New Year's Eve.
The parliament speaker, who angered other parliament members during a discussion of the shoe-thrower, had tried to delay a vote on the troop agreement as a way to hold onto his job, but the effort failed.
You too can throw a shoe at BushSource
Art and sole: Patrons toss shoes at Bush image
Jan. 5, 2009 12:58 PM
ASHLAND, Ore. - An Ashland art gallery opened an exhibit with a fundraiser that featured a "shoe throw" at an image of President George Bush.
City Councilor Eric Navickas - who opened the gallery with partner Amy Godard - used a roller to slather a layer of red paint on the soles of sneakers, boots and Birkenstocks before people fired them at the 8-foot image of Bush.
Each shot cost $1, and the funds will go toward future gallery exhibits.
Godard says the exhibit is a "statement of solidarity" for Muntadhar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who hurled two shoes at Bush last month.
One contributor was 91-year-old Marjorie Mather, who said she enjoyed the chance to toss a shoe and splatter a little paint as a political statement.
Iraqi guards said to throw party for shoe-thrower
Jan. 16, 2009 02:26 PM
BAGHDAD - The Iraqi journalist jailed since throwing his shoes at President George W. Bush got a visit from his brother Friday and a birthday party from his guards as he turned 30.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who has gained cult status for his bizarre protest, is in good shape but has been denied access to his lawyer, relatives said after his brother Maitham visited him for two hours in his detention cell in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.
Al-Zeidi has been in custody since the Dec. 14 outburst at Bush's joint news conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Thousands demonstrated for al-Zeidi's release and hailed his gesture.
But concern was raised about his welfare after allegations that he had been severely beaten and tortured in detention.
The case's investigating judge has said the journalist was struck about the face and eyes, apparently by security agents who wrestled him to the floor after he hurled his shoes, forcing Bush to duck for cover.
Maitham al-Zeidi was not available to comment on the visit, but another brother, Dhargham, told the Associated Press that he was told the wounds had healed.
"Muntadhar was in a good shape ... and his morale was high. Yesterday was his birthday and some patriotic officers there organized a party for him and brought birthday cake," Dhargham al-Zeidi said.
The case became a focus for Iraqis and others in the Muslim world who resent the U.S. invasion and occupation. But it also embarrassed al-Maliki, who was standing next to Bush at the time. Neither leader was injured.
Al-Zeidi had been due to face a trial in December on a charge of assaulting a foreign leader, which his defense team said carried a maximum sentence of 15 years. But an appellate court is considering a motion to reduce the charges to simply insulting Bush.
Defense lawyer Dhia al-Saadi said it was a matter of freedom of expression.
"Al-Zeidi's act was symbolic and in no way was it a murder attempt," he said, adding that he had been allowed to meet his client only once.
"I submitted many petitions to the judge of the case and I expect to meet Muntadhar next week," he said.
Al-Zeidi's act of defiance transformed the obscure reporter from an employee of a minor TV station into a national hero to many Iraqis fed up with the nearly six-year U.S. presence here.
But his brother said information about the international wave of support had been kept from the journalist.
"Some officers told him that half of the Iraqis were against him. But he was very happy when he heard that all the Iraqis support him. He even cried when he heard that there were demonstrations on his behalf even in the United States," Dhargham al-Zeidi said.
The brother who met with Muntadhar al-Zeidi was taken by bus to the detention center, and two army officers supervised the meeting.
The journalist is currently being held alone in a comfortable room with a bed and a TV set, his brother said. "He is being visited frequently by doctors. The food is very good," the brother added.
Al-Zeidi stood by his attack on Bush. He stressed that he meant no offense to the Iraqi prime minister but didn't want to miss his chance to send Bush a message, the brother said.
"He said he could not wait until al-Maliki left the room to throw his shoes because then Bush would also leave and that historic opportunity would be lost," he said.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi actually feared he would be killed by guards after throwing his shoes and read his last prayers before going to the news conference, his brother said.
"So for him it does not matter for how long he would be imprisoned," his brother said, "because the important thing is that he restored the honor of the Iraqi people."
Iraq: Artwork dedicated to shoe thrower
Jan. 29, 2009 08:48 AM
BAGHDAD - When an Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes at George W. Bush last month at a Baghdad press conference, the attack spawned a flood of Web quips, political satire and street rallies across the Arab world.
Now it's inspired a work of art.
A sofa-sized shoe statue was unveiled Thursday in Tikrit, the hometown of the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Baghdad-based artist Laith al-Amari described his fiberglass-and-copper work as a homage to the pride of the Iraqi people.
The statue also has inscribed a poem honoring Muntadhar al-Zeidi, the Iraqi journalist. Al-Zeidi was charged with assaulting a foreign leader, but the trial was postponed after his lawyer sought to reduce the charges.
Trial date set for Iraqi who threw shoes at Bush
Feb. 8, 2009 08:07 AM
BAGHDAD - The Iraqi journalist who threw shoes at former President George W. Bush will face trial Feb. 19 on the original charge of assaulting a foreign leader, a judicial official said Sunday.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi, 30, who is considered a hero by many Iraqis for his protest, has been in custody since the Dec. 14 outburst at Bush's joint news conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
He had been due to face a trial in December on a charge of assaulting a foreign leader but his defense team won a delay as it sought to reduce the charges to simply insulting Bush.
But Bayrkdar told The Associated Press that the trial will begin on Feb. 19 and the charge of assaulting a foreign leader will stand.
The case became a focus for Iraqis and others in the Muslim world who resent the U.S. invasion and occupation. Thousands demonstrated for al-Zeidi's release and hailed his gesture, which came in the waning days of the Bush administration.
But it also embarrassed al-Maliki, who was standing next to Bush at the time. Neither leader was injured.
The judicial spokesman refused to say what penalties al-Zeidi could face if convicted, saying "it's up to the court." The defense has said the assault charge carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
"We were hoping that the charges would be reduced before the start of court proceedings," said Abdul-Hamid al-Saeh, al-Zeidi's employer and the Cairo-based director of al-Baghdadia satellite channel.
"We stress again that Muntadhar's case puts before the government a challenge that any democratic state must deal when it comes to an expression of opinion," he told The Associated Press by telephone.
Al-Zeidi's brother, Dhargham, said the family has not yet been informed of the trial date.
He also reiterated complaints that relatives and lawyers have been denied access to al-Zeidi, saying authorities turned down the family's request to meet with al-Zeidi on Thursday.
"This court works according to orders from the Cabinet," the brother said, expressing fear that al-Zeidi could face the death penalty. "He has been deprived of his simplest rights."
Al-Zeidi's family claims he was beaten and tortured in detention.
The case's investigating judge has said the journalist was struck about the face and eyes, apparently by security agents who wrestled him to the floor after he hurled his shoes, forcing Bush to duck for cover.
One brother who visited al-Zeidi last month said he appeared in good shape and his wounds had healed
Why on earth is this guy on trial? He should be given a medal and they should replace the statute that we tore down of Saddam with a statute of him!
Iraqi says he threw shoes at Bush to protest war
Feb. 19, 2009 08:42 AM
BAGHDAD - The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former President George W. Bush failed to apologize as his trial began Thursday, and instead appealed defiantly to the pride of his war-ravaged country.
In his first public appearance since he was taken into custody on Dec. 14, Muntadhar al-Zeidi said he did not intend to harm Bush or to embarrass Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
"What made me do it was the humiliation Iraq has been subjected to due to the U.S. occupation and the murder of innocent people," al-Zeidi said. "I wanted to restore the pride of the Iraqis in any way possible, apart from using weapons."
The 30-year-old journalist also alleged during his testimony to the three-judge panel that he was tortured while in jail - something the Iraqi government has denied.
Al-Zeidi, who's become a folk hero in Iraq and the rest of Middle East, was greeted by applause and cheers from supporters as he entered the courtroom in western Baghdad. His aunt handed him a scarf imprinted with a red, black and green Iraqi flag, which he kissed and draped around his neck.
The chief judge then threatened to order everybody out of the room if they didn't calm down. The trial was later adjourned until March 12.
Al-Zeidi has been in Iraqi custody since he was wrestled to the ground by guards and dragged away after the Dec. 14 outburst at Bush's joint news conference with al-Maliki in Baghdad.
When he threw the shoes, he shouted at Bush in Arabic: "This is your farewell kiss, you dog! This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."
In his testimony on Thursday, al-Zeidi described his growing frustration as Bush spoke about his victories and achievement at the press conference - held 37 days before Bush handed the war off to his successor, Barack Obama, who has pledged to end it.
"I was seeing a whole country in calamity while Bush was giving a cold and spiritless smile," al-Zeidi testified. "He was saying goodbye after causing the death of many Iraqis and economic destruction."
The obscure television reporter was transformed into a celebrity across the Muslim world, where thousands hailed him as a hero and demanded his release for what they considered a justified act of patriotism.
Al-Zeidi's attorneys say he has been charged with assaulting a foreign leader, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. Al-Zeidi was originally scheduled to appear in court Dec. 31, but the trial was postponed as the defense unsuccessfully tried to get the charge reduced, saying the act didn't merit such harsh punishment.
The defense argued Thursday that Bush was not on an official visit because he had arrived in Iraq unannounced and without invitation. That would mean the charge of assaulting a foreign leader would not be applicable, according to the defense.
"The visit was not formal because Bush is an occupier and he was received by the commander of the U.S. Army," one of al-Zeidi's lawyers Ghalib al-Rubaie said. "President Jalal Talabani and the prime minister did not receive him when he arrived."
Judge Abdul-Amir al-Rubaie adjourned the trial, saying the court needed time to ask the Iraqi Cabinet whether Bush's visit was "formal or informal." Visits by foreign dignitaries are rarely announced beforehand due to security reasons.
The defendant, wearing a beige suit and a black shirt, spoke confidently and showed no signs of the injuries he allegedly suffered at the hands of security forces.
The case's investigating judge has said the journalist was struck about the face and eyes, apparently by security agents after he hurled one shoe, then another, forcing Bush to duck for cover. Al-Zeidi said Thursday he was tortured, beaten and given electric shocks during his interrogation.
Two Cabinet protocol employees who witnessed the show-throwing incident testified at the trial that no bodyguards assaulted al-Zeidi despite confusion at the scene.
One of the witnesses, Sameer Mohammed, said he saw some members of the audience start to beat al-Zeidi but then "the prime minister ordered that the press conference should proceed and that no one should hurt him."
Another witness said the guards did not assault al-Zeidi but there was a scuffle.
"No one from security or the bodyguards assaulted him, but they were trying to push him out and he was pushing them back," witness Abdul Amir said in testimony read by the judge.
Al-Maliki was deeply embarrassed by the assault on an American president who had stood by him during the worst of the violence, when some Arab leaders were quietly urging the U.S. to oust him.
Al-Zeidi's brother, Odai, dismissed the testimony by the government witnesses.
"The trial was a farce and a joke," he said. "Muntadhar said: 'I do not regret throwing the shoes at Bush and if the clock was turned back, I would hit Bush again.' "
Dozens of relatives and supporters who rallied in front of the courthouse before the trial began said al-Zeidi should be praised for standing up to Bush, not punished for his actions.
"What Muntadhar has done is revenge for Iraqi widows and for the bloodshed caused by the occupation and policy of Bush," said his aunt, Nawal Lazim, who handed him the scarf as he entered the court.
In violence reported by police and military officials on Thursday, a series of roadside bombs apparently targeting Iraqi security forces killed nine people, including four Iraqi soldiers patrolling in Balad Ruz, northeast of Baghdad.
A bomb also exploded near a policeman's house west of the capital, killing his wife, son and nephew, and an Iraqi soldier and a civilian were killed in a blast near the Iranian border.
Iraqi shoe-thrower trial adjourned
The trial of the Iraqi reporter who hurled his shoes at George Bush, the former US president, has been adjourned until March.
Muntazer al-Zeidi, who faces up to 15 years in prison if found guilty of assaulting a foreign leader, appeared in court on Thursday.
Al-Zeidi was handcuffed and surrounded by a pack of security guards as he was brought to Iraq's Central Criminal Court in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone.
Family members waiting for him inside the courthouse ululated wildly as he was brought in and draped an Iraqi flag across his shoulders.
The chief judge threatened to order everybody out of the room if they did not quieten. He later adjourned the trial until March 12.
Al-Zeidi's legal team argues that the charges should be dropped and the 30-year-old TV journalist be freed.
Dhiya al-Saadi, one of the lawyers acting for al-Zeidi, said on Wednesday: "He [al-Zeidi] was optimistic and ready to stand in front of the court, as he believes what he did was fair.
"He is counting on his release because he did not try to kill former president Bush and was only expressing his opinion."
'Freedom of expression'
Khalid al-Izzi, another defence lawyer, said they would also argue that al-Zeidi's actions were "spontaneous" and "against the president of the state that occupies Iraq".
"We will demand a reduction in the charge which is that he was threatening the life of a visiting president with premeditation ... We will argue that Bush was not on a declared official visit between two sovereign countries," al-Izzi said.
"In fact, Bush was visiting an occupied country and al-Zeidi was trying to express his personal rejection [of] that occupation."
The shoes al-Zeidi threw at Bush will not be presented as evidence in court because they were destroyed after being cut and checked for possible explosives.
Bush ducked and narrowly avoided being hit by the shoes while speaking at a joint press conference in Baghdad with Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, on December 14, 2008.
The Al-Baghdadia TV reporter also verbally insulted Bush, calling him "a dog".
Bush dismissed the incident at the time, joking that the shoes were a "size 10".
Court reduces sentence for Muntadhar al-Zeidi, the Iraqi shoe thrower to one year
Court reduces sentence for Iraqi shoe thrower
Posted 4/7/2009 12:35 PM ET
BAGHDAD (AP) — An Iraqi court has reduced the prison sentence for an Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at former President George W. Bush from three years to one.
Court spokesman Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar says Tuesday's decision was made because the journalist had no prior criminal history.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi was sentenced to three years in March after a quick trial. Al-Zeidi had pleaded not guilty to a charge of assaulting a foreign leader and said his action was a "natural response to the occupation."
The journalist's act during Bush's last visit to Iraq as president turned the 30-year-old reporter into a folk hero across the Arab world, where the former U.S. president is reviled for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Al-Zeidi faced up to 15 years.
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