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Baghdad shoe thrower gets three-year prison term

Article published on the 2009-03-12 Latest update 2009-03-12 15:57 TU

A still from the pool video (CNN) showing President Bush (podium, left) ducking the shoes (top right)(Photo: AFP)

A still from the pool video (CNN) showing President Bush (podium, left) ducking the shoes (top right)
(Photo: AFP)

The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former US President George W Bush at a press conference in December was sentenced on Thursday to three years of prison for assault. Muntazer al-Zaidi pleaded not guilty at the hearing at the Iraq Central Criminal Court, and his lawyer said he would appeal the verdict.

"We expected the decision because under the Iraqi criminal code he was charged with assaulting a foreign leader on an official visit," said lawyer Yahia Attabi, one of the 25 people on the defence team. Attabi says they will appeal the decision.

Zaidi faced up to 15 years in prison for assaulting a foreign head of state.

Throwing shoes is considered an insult in the Arab and Muslim world, and Zaidi was held up as a hero by those who disliked the former US President.

Zaidi told the judge, Abdulamir Hassan al-Rubaie, that he was innocent because "My reaction was natural, just like any Iraqi [would have done]".

Defence lawyer, Ehiya al-Sadi, argued that his client's motives were "honourable."

"He was only expressing his feelings,” he said. “What he could see was the blood of Iraqis at his feet when he watched the US President speaking about his achievements in Iraq."

He said that the shoe did not cause any injury, which proved it was not an assault, but rather an insult.

"His goal was to insult Bush for the pain Iraqis have suffered,” he said.

Zaidi has already been in jail for three months.