Shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist gets three years in prison (Second Lead)

March 12th, 2009 - 7:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Baghdad, March 12 (DPA) A Baghdad court Thursday sentenced the Iraqi television journalist who threw his shoes at then US president George W. Bush to three years in prison, judicial sources said.
Judge Abdel-Amir al-Hassani of the Central Criminal Court jailed Montadher al-Zaidi, a 30-year-old journalist for Iraqi-owned al-Baghdadiya television station, for throwing his shoes at Bush at a Dec 14 press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Al-Zaidi Thursday plead “not guilty” to charges of assaulting a foreign head of state.

Witnesses told DPA that people watching trial shouted “Freedom for al-Zaidi!” during Thursday’s session.

“This verdict is a victory for the right to injustice,” al-Zaidi’s brother Maitham said, adding that the defence team would appeal agaisnt the court’s verdict.

The journalist, who became an instant hero in Iraq and across the Arab world for throwing his shoes at Bush and shouting “this is a parting gift, you dog”, had faced up to 15 years in prison.

The courtroom was cleared of journalists and family members when the verdict was read. It was not immediately clear why the judge passed a sentence of three years.

Defence lawyers had argued that al-Zaidi had only tried to insult, not assault, Bush.

The first session of al-Zaidi’s trial in February was quickly adjourned so judges could determine whether the former US president had been to Iraq on a state visit.

During that session, al-Zaidi told the court that he had become enraged when he saw Bush’s “icy smile” and thought of the suffering of the Iraqi people since the US-led invasion of the country in 2003.

According to local press reports, armed men had abducted al-Zaidi in 2007 and held him for three days until his family paid a ransom.

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