Auto SalesOther News...
sponsored by...

Iraqi says he threw shoes at Bush to restore pride

Send a link to a friend

[February 19, 2009]  BAGHDAD (AP) -- An Iraqi journalist who gained cult status for throwing his shoes at former President George W. Bush said Thursday at the start of his trial that he was driven by a desire to restore the pride of his devastated country.

In his first public appearance since he was taken into custody on Dec. 14, Muntadhar al-Zeidi said he did not intend to harm Bush or to embarrass Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

"What made me do it was the humiliation Iraq has been subjected to due to the U.S. occupation and the murder of innocent people," al-Zeidi said. "I wanted to restore the pride of the Iraqis in any way possible, apart from using weapons."

The 30-year-old journalist addressed the three-judge panel after being greeted by applause and cheers from supporters as he entered the courtroom in western Baghdad. His aunt handed him a scarf imprinted with a red, black and green Iraqi flag, which he kissed and draped around his neck.

The chief judge then threatened to order everybody out of the room if they didn't calm down. The trial was later adjourned until March 12.

Al-Zeidi has been in Iraqi custody since he was wrestled to the ground by guards and dragged away after the Dec. 14 outburst at Bush's joint news conference with al-Maliki in Baghdad.

When he threw the shoes, he shouted at Bush in Arabic: "This is your farewell kiss, you dog! This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."


In his testimony on Thursday, al-Zeidi described his growing frustration as Bush spoke about his victories and achievement at the press conference -- held 37 days before Bush handed the war off to his successor, Barack Obama, who has pledged to end it.

"I was seeing a whole country in calamity while Bush was giving a cold and spiritless smile," al-Zeidi testified. "He was saying goodbye after causing the death of many Iraqis and economic destruction."

The obscure television reporter was transformed into a celebrity across the Muslim world, where thousands hailed him as a hero and demanded his release for what they considered a justified act of patriotism.

Al-Zeidi's attorneys say he has been charged with assaulting a foreign leader, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. The defense has tried to get the charge reduced, saying the act doesn't merit such harsh punishment.

The defense has argued that Bush was not in Baghdad on an official visit because he had arrived in Iraq unannounced and without invitation. That would mean the charge of assaulting a foreign leader would not be applicable, according to the defense.

"The visit was not formal because Bush is an occupier and he was received by the commander of the U.S. Army and it was an undeclared visit," one of al-Zeidi's lawyers Ghalib al-Rubaie said. "President Jalal Talabani and the prime minister did not receive him when he arrived."

Judge Abdul-Amir al-Rubaie adjourned the trial, saying the court needed time to ask the Iraqi Cabinet whether Bush's visit was "formal or informal." Visits by foreign dignitaries are rarely announced beforehand due to security reasons.

The defendant, who was wearing a beige suit and a black shirt, spoke confidently and showed no signs of the injuries he allegedly suffered at the hands of security forces.

[to top of second column]


The case's investigating judge has said the journalist was struck about the face and eyes, apparently by security agents after he hurled one shoe at a time, forcing Bush to duck for cover.

Al-Zeidi said he was tortured, beaten and given electric shocks during his interrogation.

Two Cabinet protocol employees who witnessed the incident testified at the trial that no bodyguards assaulted al-Zeidi despite confusion at the scene.

One of the witnesses, Sameer Mohammed, said he saw some members of the audience start to beat al-Zeidi but then "the prime minister ordered that the press conference should proceed and that no one should hurt him."

Another witness said the guards did not assault al-Zeidi but there was a scuffle.

"No one from security or the bodyguards assaulted him, but they were trying to push him out and he was pushing them back," witness Abdul Amir said in testimony read by the judge.

Abdul Amir said al-Zeidi was repeating the word dog, which he had called Bush.

Al-Maliki was deeply embarrassed by the assault on an American president who had stood by him during the worst of the violence, when some Arab leaders were quietly urging the U.S. to oust him.

Supporters who rallied in front of the western Baghad court before the trial began Thursday said al-Zeidi should be praised for standing up to Bush, not punished for his actions.

"We are proud of what Muntadhar has done," said al-Zeidi's sister Doniya, standing outside the court with about 60 other supporters. "Bush was not a guest in Iraq and he didn't come by invitation of the Iraqi people. He came as an occupier."

The journalist's aunt, Nawal Lazim, who handed him the scarf as he entered the court, said Iraqis should be proud of al-Zeidi's act.

"What Muntadhar has done is revenge for Iraqi widows and for the bloodshed caused by the occupation and policy of Bush," Lazim said.

[Associated Press; By SINAN SALAHEDDIN]

Associated Press writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sameer N. Yacoub contributed to this report.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

< Top Stories index

Back to top


News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries

Community | Perspectives | Law & Courts | Leisure Time | Spiritual Life | Health & Fitness | Teen Scene
Calendar | Letters to the Editor