Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The continued journey of the traveling shoes

AP reports that Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zeidi -- world famous since hurling both shoes at the Bully Boy of the United States on Sunday -- is expected to see his case taken to the Central Criminal Court of Iraq today where it will be determined whether or not futher judicial review is needed and that there is a push to charge "him with insulting a foreign leader, a charge that carries a maximum of 2 years imprisonment or a small fine." Babylon & Beyond's "IRAQ: Shoe tosser hits the big time" (Los Angeles Times) observes:

Legal experts speculated Zaidi could face from two to seven years in prison if charged with assaulting a visiting dignitary.
But pressure is growing to let Zaidi go, even from journalists groups who said his behavior was over the top.
The Facebook fan club created for Zaidi late Sunday had grown to 519 members on Tuesday, as university students, lawyers and some journalists marched in the northern city of Mosul to demand his release.
"I salute Zaidi for his bravery. He was able to express the vision of the Iraqi people against their occupiers," said one Iraqi newspaper reporter, Zinab Bakri. A Sunni lawmaker, Noureldeen Hiyali, held a news conference to defend Zaidi, saying the reporter had cracked after more than five years of war as seen through the close-up angle of a reporter.
Such sentiments are not limited to Iraq.

The story of the flying shoes was the most-viewed item on the website of the Ramallah newspaper al-Quds, and the more than 50 comments about it all favored Zaidi. "Heroes like this will restore our dignity," wrote one reader. "All of Gaza and its shoes are at your service," wrote another. One Palestinian named each shoe: One was the "Tomahawk missile"; the other was "the atomic shoe."

Andrew Malcolm embarrasses himself and I could go into that at length but a friend at the paper (who laughed on the phone with me this morning about using a news outlet to announce a foot fetish -- the link takes you there) asked that I instead note how sad it is for Malcolm that his Christ-child, Saint Barack, has already so disappointed and that he's forced to cover reality after all those gauzy, hazy tributes/sightings of Saint Barack he filed during the primaries and general election. From Andrew's "Obama goes to school, talks Iraq, royalty, decimals and dog poop" (LAT's Top of the Ticket blog):

Obama also cut off a reporter seeking a reconciliation between Obama's previous promise to keep a hands-off approach to choosing his Senate successor and revelations that his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, did, in fact, discuss the succession with Blagojevich in meetings apparently wiretapped by federal agents but not yet released by Obama.
Obama said he wouldn't let the reporter waste time asking a question he had no intention of answering. So there.

Yes, that does seem like any presidential press conference that could have taken place from mid-January 2001 to the present. No, it does not appear that a new era is waiting in the wings. Just more of the same. From Malcolm's "Move along, folks, nothing to see here: Obama on Blagojevich:"

President-elect Barack Obama re-re-explains the delay in releasing the promised list of contacts between his office and that of accused Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich over filling Obama's now vacant U.S. Senate seat.
We have two news videos this morning. One just below shows Obama's own words on the Blagojevich case. And the other on the jump (click the "Read more" line) covers the Illinois legislature's first day of gubernatorial impeachment proceedings in Springfield.

According to Obama, the contact chronology and list are complete and do not contradict his statement last week that nothing inappropriate was done by him or his staff.
But no one can see it yet.

Those are my good deeds for the day. Back to the shoe toss, in today's New York Times, Timothy Williams and Abeer Mohammed offer "Shoe-Hurling Journalist to Appear in Baghdad Court" and review potential charges Muntader could face:

. . . Iraqi criminal lawyers not involved in the case say there are several possible charges he could face, including initiating an aggressive act against the head of a foreign state on an official visit, with a potential punishment of seven years in prison.
A less severe charge, insulting the leader of a foreign nation, carries a sentence of up to two years in prison or a fine of 200 Iraqi dinars, about 17 cents. A third possible crime, simple aggression, is punishable by up to one year in prison or a fine.

The reporters note that Muntader's legal team is headed by Dheyaa Saadi who states, "I will introduce myself as his lawyer and demand the case be closed and Muntader be released because he did not commit a crime. He only freely expressed himself to the occupier, and he has such a right according to international law."

Let's stop here to note a voice of reason from a surprising location, the White House. This is Dana Perino, White House spokesperson, speaking at yesterday's press conference on the topic:

Well, it was just a shoe, and the President saw it from his vantage point. He felt fine about it. I think you saw he let the Secret Service know he thought he was okay, and the Secret Service jumped in as quickly as they thought they needed to. And then they were able to back off and let the Prime Minister of a duly -- the duly elected Prime Minister of a sovereign Iraq taking questions from journalists there who never would have been able to do that five years ago. And the President just thinks it was just a -- it was just a shoe.
People express themselves in lots of different ways. Obviously he was very angry. I can't think -- I don't -- I can't tell you exactly what the shoe thrower was thinking, but I can tell what the President thought, was that he was fine. And he said immediately -- you saw his reaction was, don't worry about it; it was okay. So we hold no hard feelings about it, and we've really moved on.

On yesterday's announcement of the GE contract, Williams and Mohammed add:

But the plan, involving the delivery of 56 huge turbines, could run into the same problems that have hampered both the United States and iraq in rebuilding the electricity infrastructure. Iraq has proved unable to provide enough fuel or proper maintenance to G.E. turbines that have already been delivered.

And in Iraq, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, Speaker of Parliament, has reportedly declared "he's resigning after legislators argued about the journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush."

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