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December 16, 2008

The Shoe Thrown around the World

POLITICS - Note: It is not illegal to throw your shoes at someone in Iraq. Indeed its quite traditional to throw your shoes at someone you despise.

The journalist who threw his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush was handed over to the Iraqi judiciary, an Iraqi official said today, a move that ordinarily signals the start of criminal proceedings. However... what are they charging him with?

After all its not illegal to throw your shoes at someone. It might be considered rude, but its certainly not against the law in a country where its considered a tradition.

Hundreds of shoe-throwing supporters took to the streets today for a second day to demand the release of shoe-throwing journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who gained folk hero status when he hurled both his shoes at Bush during a news conference Sunday in Baghdad.

Al-Zeidi was initially held by the prime minister's guards and later turned over to the Iraqi army's Baghdad command. The command, in turn, handed him over to the judiciary. Cases referred to the judiciary are given to a judge who reviews the evidence and recommends whether to hold a trial or release the defendant.

Another panel then sets a trial date and appoints judges to hear the case. The process can take months, but there's still the first obvious question of what to charge him with... assassination attempt? Hardly. The shoes posed no threat to the American president.

Interior Ministry spokesperson Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said al-Zeidi could face charges of insulting a foreign leader and the Iraqi prime minister, who was standing next to Bush when the shoes were thrown. The offense carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail.

Okay, now that's censorship for you. Insulting a politician is illegal in Iraq... funny. People around the world insult George W. Bush constantly and yet don't face a sentence of 2 years in prison.

Many Iraqis believe al-Zeidi is a hero for insulting an American president widely blamed for the chaos that has engulfed their country since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.

In Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, located north of Baghdad, thousands of protesters carried banners and chanted slogans demanding al-Zeidi's release. More protests continued today in Nasiriyah, Baghdad and Fallujah.

"Muntadhar al-Zeidi has expressed the feelings and ambitions of the Iraqi people toward the symbol of tyranny," said Nassar Afrawi, a protester in Nasiriyah.

In Baghdad, Noureddin al-Hiyali, a lawmaker of the main Sunni bloc in parliament, defended al-Zeidi's actions and said he believed the reporter was likely motivated by the invasion of Iraq, the "dismantling of the Iraqi government, destroying the infrastructure," – all events he blamed on the Bush administration.

"International law approves peoples' right to resist occupation using all means and Mr. Muntadhar al-Zeidi endeavoured to resist occupation in his own manner," al-Hiyali said. He urged the Iraqi government to take that into consideration when deciding what to do with al-Zeidi.

The head of the Iraqi Union of Journalists described al-Zeidi's action as "strange and unprofessional" but urged Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to give him clemency. "Even if he has committed a mistake, the government and the judiciary are broad-minded, and we hope they consider his release because he has a family, and he is still young," Mouyyad al-Lami. "We hope this case ends before going to court."

The perception of al-Zeidi as a hero reflects Arab disgust towards Bush for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and dissatisfaction with Bush's foreign policy in the Middle East.

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