Thursday, March 12, 2009

Three year sentence for a shoe toss

Bully Boy and Puppet

Above is Bully Boy and Nouri al-Maliki as the two celebrated and signed the Strategic Forces Agreement and the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement on December 14th minutes before Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi declared, "This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is the farewell kiss you dog. This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq" while hurling first one-shoe and the second at Bully Boy. Both shoes missed and Bully Boy grinned and did not take it seriously or perceive it to be a threat ("And if you want some -- if you want the facts, it's a size 10 shoe that he threw. Thank you for your concern, do not worry about it.")

Muntadhar was immediately pounced on and beaten by al-Maliki's thugs. He was then carted off to jail and denied visitation with his family and denied consulation with his attorneys. A public outcry forced al-Maliki to allow a token visit and it was learned that Muntadhar stated he had been beaten while in prison. Less widely reported was that Muntadhar also denied the statements attributed to him by al-Maliki's government. Today Muntadhar shouted, "Long live Iraq!"

He was in court again. His third appearance this year. February 19th, Muntadar al-Zaidi (also spelled Muntadhar al-Zeidi) appeared before a judge who adjourned unsure whether or not Bully Boy's visit was an official one. As noted here then, "But it was an official visit. (They think Bush takes pleasure cruises? The man who had to have his pillow to campaign in 2000 and still whined about being out on the road?) And it's rather frightening that the presiding judge felt the need to halt the trial so that the nature of the visit could be determined." The judge ruled this week that it was an official visit. Of course, he did. Unless the defense was attempting to delay via that ploy, it was a dumb legal move. They were at a table, they were signing two official government documents. It didn't matter, as Muntadhar's attorneys attempted to argue, that the visit took place in the Green Zone (under US control) and not in another part of Iraq. Why would it? Except for the Kurdistan Region, Iraq was all under US control at the time of the visit.

So Tuesday Muntadhar was back before the judge and his brother attempted to lead a demonstration which the police shut down claiming there was no permit. Marc Santora (New York Times) reports this morning (online -- no article on Iraq in the paper) that the judge, Abdulamir Hassan al-Rubaie, found it was an official visit and made that announcement Tuesday. Pauline Lockwood (The Mirror -- link has video of the shoe toss) explains, "Muntadar al-Zaidi pleaded not guilty during his trial and said that his reaction at the time had been natural and represented the feeling of the Iraqi population." (Santora quotes him stating, "I am innocent. It was a natural reaction to the crime of occupation.") Hamza Hendawi (AP) notes that Muntadhar, if found guilty, could have faced up to 15 years in prison; however, he was found guilty and sentenced to three years. CNN explains, " Family members and journalists were cleared from the courtroom before Thursday's verdict. After news of the verdict reached family members, al-Zaidi's brother appeared close to fainting. Other family members were seen crying and shouting curses about al-Maliki and Bush." David Byers (Times of London) adds:

His sister, Ruqaiya, was seen to burst into tears and shout: "Down with (Iraqi Prime Minister) Maliki, agent of the Americans" and several family members stood outside Iraq Central Criminal Court shouting anti-American slogans.
Dhiaa al-Saadi, the chief defence lawyer, said that his team would appeal. “This sentence is harsh and is not in harmony with the law, and eventually the defence team will contest this in the appeals court," he was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency.

Al Jazeera notes the family plans to appeal, to bring torture charges against Nouri, Bully Boy and Nouri's bodyguards and that they question the verdict:

One of his brothers, Uday, said the decision was political.
"This is a political court. Muntadhar is being treated like a prisoner of war. He is not a normal prisoner ... This decision has been taken by the prime minister's office."
Al-Zaidi shouted "Iraq, long live Iraq" after the verdict was read out, Yahia Attabi, a defence lawyer, said.
"We expected the decision because under the Iraqi criminal code he was charged with assaulting a foreign leader on an official visit."

Gary Langer (ABC News) reports a poll of Iraqis by ABC News, BBC and NHK finds:

Twenty-four percent of Iraqis see al-Zeidi as a criminal for assaulting a visiting foreign head of state. But 62 percent instead call him a hero, for expressing the views held by many Iraqi people. Al-Zeidi is scheduled to appear in court today in Baghdad.

His highest support in the polls comes from Sunni Arabs who hail him as a hero by 84%. Citing the poll, Jon Cohen (Washington Post) notes of the guilty verdict and three year sentence, "It's a decision that is unlikely to go over well with the Iraqi public".

Yesterday, Iraq's Foreign Ministry noted:

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry mourned one the distinguished diplomatic and national figures, retired Ambassador Baha Hussain Al-Shibib, who passed away after a lifetime spent serving his country.
Ambassador Al-Shabib was born in 1937 and left Iraq in 1976 as a result of opposing the policies of the Iraqi regime and returned after April 2003 where he became the representative of Iraq in Geneva and the Humanitarian Coordinator to the United Nations.

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oh boy it never ends