Reporters Without Borders notes that a Baghdad appeal court today reduced journalist Muntazer Al-Zaidi’s sentence from three years to one year in prison. Zaidi was arrested at a Baghdad news conference on 14 December after throwing his shoes at US President George W. Bush.
“This positive decision is a sign of progress towards a judicial system that is balanced and understanding,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The courts have finally recognised that Zaidi acted in a particular war context in which many crimes have remained unpunished. We continue to call for his release.”
Agence France-Presse quoted Zaidi’s lawyer, Dhiya al-Saadi, as saying the judges based their decision on his motives, his youth, the fact that he had no previous criminal record, and his behaviour in prison. Zaidi is 30.
With time off for good behaviour, he should be released on 14 September.
12.03 - Three years in jail for TV journalist who threw shoes at Bush
Reporters Without Borders condemns the three-year jail sentence which a Baghdad court passed today on journalist Muntazer Al-Zaidi of the Iraqi TV station Al-Baghdadia for throwing his shoes at US President George W. Bush during a news conference in Baghdad on 14 December.
He was convicted under articles of 223, 225 and 227 of the Iraqi criminal code of “offending a foreign head of state during an official visit,” which carries maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
“We obviously regret that Zaidi chose this way to protest against the President Bush’s policies but there is no justification for this prison sentence,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The sentence is cynical in a country where so many of the people who kill journalists are never brought to justice. We call for his release.”
Zaidi has been held ever since his arrest at the news conference. The trial began on 19 February but was adjourned because of a legal wrangle about the nature of President Bush’s visit to Iraq. Zaidi’s lawyers argued that it was a “surprise” visit and not an “official” one, as the indictment said.
Zaidi pleaded not guilty. “My reaction was natural, just like any Iraqi would have done towards the person responsible for the crimes committed in Iraq," he told the judge.