Iraq shoe thrower being held without due process

The Iraqi journalist Muntazer Al-Zaidi, now internationally known for throwing a shoe at outgoing US president George Bush, has been hailed as a hero by many people in the Arab World, including his brother, who explains the motives behind his actions. Al-Zaidi was even offered a job by Lebanon's New TV. It is still unclear when he will be released.
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Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff gives his version of the shoe throwing event. © Carlos Latuff

BEIRUT, December 16, 2008 (MENASSAT) — Muntzer al-Zaidi was detained by Iraqi authorities under the command of national security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, who also said the 28-year-old will be prosecuted under Iraqi law. Al-Zaidi’s brother, Dirgham Al-Zaidi, 32, told the BBC that the journalist had been beaten in custody.

Pro-government sources have denied the claims and told the BBC that Mr. Zaidi was being treated well. Mouyyad Al-Lami, the head of Iraq's Journalists Union, said he hoped to visit Al-Zaidi soon.

Speaking with France24 TV from inside the family home about his brother, Dirgham Al-Zaidi described him as a hero for throwing his shoes at Bush on Sunday.

"Muntazer is a nervous guy, especially whenever he sees violence and Iraqi people dying, but he calms down very fast afterwards," the brother said. "We as a family hate occupation in all of its forms. And Muntazer hates it too. We all have the same attitude regarding the American forces occupying Iraq. I think that Bush did destroy Iraq and he did kill Iraqis."
Against the backdrop of pictures of Che Guevara hanging in his bedroom, Al-Zaidi's mother told France24 that it was always her son's dream to hit Bush with a shoe, "and he did fulfill his dream in the end."

Dirgham says that what his brother did gave back was a sense of dignity to all Iraqis who had been affected by the US occupation. "The behavior of my brother was very spontaneous. It reveals what all the Iraqi people want, which is to humiliate the tyrant. My brother hates everything that has to do with the American occupation as a fact, and the Iranian occupation as a concept."

Another source who did not want to reveal his name, and worked with Muntazer at a local Iraqi channel called Al Diyar, said that Zaidi promised a lot of journalist friends that he was going to throw a shoe at Bush when he had a chance. But no one believed him.

What’s happening on the street

As a result of Zaidi's detention, the followers of the Shia Muslim Sadr party, led by the firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, went out on the streets of Baghdad, Basra and Najaf asking for an immediate release for Zaidi, lifting banners saying, "Get out, Bush."

An official of the Sadrist party, Hazem al Araji, was quoted saying, "We are protesting today to say no to the visit of Bush in Iraq. And of course because we want to ask for an immediate release of Muntazer Al-Zaidi."

Al-Araji also said that the Sadr party will create a legal committee to follow the case and is asking the Iraqi government to spare Zaidi "because this guy showed the world what the Iraqi people really want, which is to be against the biggest evil ever, which is Bush,."

Al-Baghdadiya TV satellite channel where Al-Zaidi was working at the time of the incident, also demanded his release during a press conference.

Nour el Din al Hiyali, a member of the Board of Deputies of the Iraqi Accordance Front, ordered the government to send him to appear in front of the Iraqi judiciary.

Hiyali, who is also a lawyer, said that Zaidi should receive a maximum  sentence of 2 years and a financial penalty, according to the Iraqi penal code. "I am asking that the Iraqi judicial courts to be responsible when dealing with the case of Zaidi and not to disregard what the Iraqi people really want."

He said, "What Zaidi did is only a consequence of the occupation that has been there for 5 years. It's only normal that he acts like that. He is a citizen like any other and it's understandable that he did this."

Praise and criticism

The Lebanese channel New TV offered Zaidi to join their team yesterday night.  Fadia Bazzi, head of the news department told AFP.

Bazzi said the station is ready to pay everything it takes for him to be released, including the necessary lawyers. She also stated that if he accepts the offer, he should consider himself getting paid from the moment he threw the shoe.

Several Lebanese newspapers this morning loudly and clearly expressed their solidarity with Al-Zaidi, including the left-leaning As Safir, which headlined, "The national hero: the Iraq streets are all standing to defend their hero that gave them back some of their dignity."

Among all the praise Zaidi has received, the National Center for Media, affiliated with the government Council of Ministers, issued a statement condemning the incident.

"This guy had a kind of barbaric attitude that has nothing to do with the ethics of journalism during the press conference that was held by Nouri al Maliki and George W. Bush, because he tried to attack a guest president," the statement said.

It continued, "We are demanding his employer apologizes for his behavior that ruined the reputation of Iraqi journalists and journalism of Iraq in general. We are asking all media organization to respect themselves and be more precise with the people they send to cover events."

It remains unclear what will happen to Zaidi, but almost 200 Arab and international lawyers say they are ready to defend the Iraqi journalist, Khalil al Dleemi, head of the former Committee for the Defense of Saddam Hussein, told AFP.

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