Monday, December 22, 2008

Shoe-toss trial scheduled for Dec. 31st

Shoe-throwing journalist Muntather Zaidi told his family he would never apologize to President Bush for hurling his footwear at the American leader, even if he is chopped into pieces, his brother said after visiting him for the first time Sunday.
Muntather has become an unlikely hero to America's critics for lobbing his shoes at Bush a week ago during the president's surprise trip to Baghdad. His actions have been praised by religious leaders, ordinary people and governments hostile to the United States and even prompted marriage offers.
Muntather, from the Cairo-based satellite channel Baghdadiya, has been locked away and kept out of the public eye since last Sunday. The Iraqi government announced earlier in the week that Muntather had written to Prime Minister Nouri Maliki requesting forgiveness for attacking Bush. But Muntather's brother Uday challenged the government's assertions after the family’s first visit with the shoe-thrower.

The above is from Caesar Ahmed and Ned Parker's "IRAQ: Shoe thrower vows never to apologize to Bush, family says" (Bablyon & Beyond, Los Angeles Times) and the report goes on to inform that his brother Uday states Muntader "lost a tooth and his nose required stiches" for abuse while he was imprisoned. Iraqi 'justice' and those who reported the 'apology' to al-Maliki as fact might want to step forward with apologies right about now. There is never, ever a reason for news outlets to report that a prisoner -- in any country, including the US -- has written an apology with nothing to go on other than government officials. Especially when the prisoner is kept from their family and their attorney.

And a working press would want to check out Uday's assertion that Muntader has "cigarette burns behind his ears." Though al-Maliki and his suck-ups can (and will) claim any bruises or missing teeth are a result of the 'take-down' of Muntader, cigarette burns would be more difficult to pin off on the 'take-down' at the al-Maliki's palace two Sundays ago.

Citing his brother Uday and Judge Judge Dhiya al-Kenani, BBC reports Muntader's trial is set for December 31st. CBC summarizes the main points as, "An Iraqi journalist has no regrets over throwing his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush and was forced to write an apology over the incident, his brother said Monday." China's Xinhua adds:

Saadi said the investigating judge is accusing Zaidi of "aggression against a foreign head of state during an official visit," an offense that carries a prison term of between five and 15 years under Iraqi law.
"I will demand that the charge be less than that because the act was an insult, not an aggression," Saadi said without telling the date of the trial.

Was Muntader tortured? UAE's The National carries an AP story with Uday's claim, Australia's The Age offers a story with Uday's claims. If you polled the general public (in any country), you'd likely find a larger number prepared to believe a family member than a government official when the two are in conflict. The problem with some of last week's reports is the unquestioning manner in which they served up "Muntader apologizes!!!!!" They had nothing but government sources -- sources with a vested interest in maintaining the apology had taken place. They didn't offer qualifiers or questions, they just repeated the claims as facts. At this point, no one knows what happened. Presumably Muntader -- if and when he speaks to the press -- will back up his brother's claims but until Muntader speaks (or his attorney speaks on his behalf), we'll stick with "his brother Uday says . . ."

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