By Lauren Mellinger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
BAGHDAD, Iraq – On December 14, Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi, a correspondent for the Cairo based Al-Baghdadiya satellite channel, threw his shoes at US President George W. Bush during a press conference. President Bush and Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki had met to discuss the Status of Forces Agreement signed in recent weeks between the US and Iraq.
It is unclear whether the injuries al-Zaidi sustained occurred immediately after he threw his shoes at President Bush or subsequently during his detention. Security guards who travel with Prime Minister al-Maliki were seen beating al-Zaidi immediately after the incident occurred, and witnesses reported hearing al-Zaidi screaming in pain.
Immediately after the incident at the press conference, al-Zaidi was detained by Iraqi authorities, on the orders of Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffeq al-Rubaie. Al-Rubaie issued a statement claiming that al-Zaidi will be tried under Iraqi law. According to his brother Dargham, Al-Zaidi has a broken hand and ribs, and is suffering from internal bleeding and from an eye injury he sustained after being hit with the butt of a rifle. In addition, Dargham claims that his brother has not had access to legal counsel since his arrest.
The head of the Iraqi journalists’ union Mouyyad al-Lami, asked the Iraqi government for clemency towards al-Zaidi, who currently remains in custody.
Al-Zaidi reportedly threw his shoes at US President Bush to insult him. Al-Zaidi holds President Bush responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iraqis since the US-led invasion in March 2003. Demonstrations in both Sunni and Shia areas of Iraq and throughout the Arab world have urged the Iraqi government to release al-Zaidi from custody. He has been regarded as a hero for standing up to the Bush administration.
According to a spokesman for the US State Department, the US does not know whether al-Zaidi was beaten when he was taken into custody. However the spokesman maintains that the US government will not condone any unnecessary use of force against al-Zaidi.
Al-Zaidi is facing a possible two year jail sentence for insulting the head of a foreign state as well as the Iraqi Prime Minister, who was standing with President Bush at the time of the incident. However, prosecutors may charge him for violating a law passed by the Baath Party in 1969, which calls for a seven year prison sentence for anyone who “insults the president or his representative.”
For more information, please see:
The Independent – Iraqi Shoe Thrower ‘Beaten in Custody’ – 17 December 2008
Al Jazeera – Iraqi Reporter al-Zaidi’s Arms, Ribs Broken – 16 December 2008
BBC – Shoe Thrower ‘Beaten in Custody’ – 16 December 2008
Guardian – Iraqi Shoe Thrower Badly Beaten in Custody, Claims Brother – 16 December 200
Voice of America – Iraqi Shoe-Thrower in Judicial Hands – 16 December 2008