thrower’s case is adjourned
BAGHDAD It was the hottest ticket in town. It drew spectators from as far away as Sweden and sparked a scramble for choice seats. Police formed human chains to block the crowds that surged forward to glimpse the star attraction: a defiant looking man in black loafers.
This time, Muntather Zaidi’s shoes stayed put as he went on trial Thursday for flinging his footwear at President Bush during a December news conference in Baghdad. If convicted of assaulting a visiting adidas south africa head office of state, the Iraqi journalist could face 15 years in prison.
Nobody questions whether Zaidi, 30, hurled his shoes at the president’s face during Bush’s farewell visit to Iraq on Dec. 14. The act was captured live on TV and has been replayed endlessly, like a spectacular touchdown pass.
Nor does Zaidi deny trying to clock Bush as he stood at a lectern beside Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki that night, shortly before the two leaders sat down to dinner.
Zaidi, voice calm but forceful and an Iraqi flag draped like a cravat around his neck, said it was more than he could bear.
“I thought about what the achievements were killing about a million Iraqis,” Zaidi said.
Everything but his target faded to black, he said, as he yanked off his shoes and threw them, one after the other. “I didn’t see anything but Bush.”
Zaidi’s legal team, more than 20 lawyers who jostled for space around the pen, cited two principal reasons why their client should not have been charged.
Bush was a drop in guest, they said, not an official visitor to Iraq, hence Zaidi should not face charges of assaulting a visiting dignitary. presence in Iraq. troops.
“My professors tell me this trial is unfair,” said one of Zaidi’s brothers, Maitham, a law student in Baghdad. He was holding court at a cafe beneath a giant shade tree outside the courthouse before the session began early Thursday.
Maitham was there with three of Zaidi’s five sisters, as well as aunts, uncles, young nieces and nephews and two other brothers. He said he would not feel different if the fast flying shoes had hit their target and drawn blood. Neither touched Bush.
“It’s the principle,” he said. “It was just to insult George Bush. It’s freedom of expression.”
Asked whether it would be all right for someone to hurl shoes at Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki if he visited the United States, Maitham replied, “Yes, if Maliki occupied you!”
As he spoke, the Zaidi clan sat around tables drinking tea and eating a breakfast of meat tucked into soft, white bread. The men wore loafers, most adidas rugby boots in south africa the style favored by Iraqi males leather, with square toes bending upward like banana boats.
Attorney Yayha Attabi, adidas south africa head office a loafer wearer himself, scoffed at the idea that leather shoes such as the ones his client threw could hurt anyone. “It was a light shoe,” Attabi said of the offending footwear, which lawyers say was destroyed by security forces for fear they might be rigged to blow up.
“There were no nails protruding. It was soft leather. Even if it were thrown strongly, it would not have hurt him,” Attabi said, speaking outside court at the close of the session.
She recalled Zaidi phoning her in Sweden on Dec. 14 to say he would be covering the Bush Maliki news conference for his employer, the Cairo based satellite network Baghdadiya TV. Kurawi tuned in to see “what kind of question he would ask.”
Two days later, adidas zx flux south africa after learning that Zaidi would face criminal charges, Kurawi flew to Iraq to support him and his family.
As the defendant entered the courtroom, applause erupted and most spectators stood up, either to get a better look or to express support. Zaidi glanced at the crowd but remained poker faced.