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Iraq shoe thrower sentenced to three years jail | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – A Baghdad court sentenced an Iraqi reporter who hurled his shoes at former U.S. President George W. Bush to three years in prison on Thursday, a verdict critics said was politically motivated.

Muntazer al-Zaidi earned instant worldwide fame in December when he threw his shoes at the U.S. leader, who spearheaded the 2003 invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, and called him a dog at a news conference.

“This sentence is harsh and is not in harmony with the law, and eventually the defence team will contest this in the appeals court,” said Dhiaa al-Saadi, the head of Zaidi’s defence team.

The government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who was standing next to Bush at the news conference and tried the block the second shoe, described the incident as a “barbaric act”.

Outside the courtroom, Zaidi’s sister Ruqaiya burst into tears when she heard the verdict, shouting “Down with Maliki, the agent of the Americans”.

Opinion on Zaidi, a reporter with al-Baghdadiya television, was divided in Iraq, where the U.S.-led invasion unleashed years of sectarian bloodshed that has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and displaced many more.

Some said a guest of Iraq should not be insulted, and that the incident embarrassed the country and its journalists. But Zaidi’s action against Bush has been adopted by many as an act of protest, and shoe-throwing has caught on at demonstrations around the world.

“The case is politicised and is an attempt to take revenge on Zaidi. I believe the judges were under political pressure from known factions … the verdict is unfair,” said Ahmed al-Masoudi, a spokesman for the anti-American Sadrist movement. However, legal expert Tareq Harb said the verdict was “far from politicised”.