Muntadher al-Zaidi, the man seen as a hero in some circles for throwing his shoes at then-U.S. President George W. Bush, was sentenced to three years in prison Thursday in an Iraqi court.
Al-Zaidi threw his shoes at Bush during a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in December in Baghdad. Neither shoe hit the president, and other people in the room quickly knocked al-Zaidi to the ground before security officials arrested him. Family members and journalists were cleared from the courtroom before Thursday’s verdict. After news of the verdict reached family members, al-Zaidi’s brother appeared close to fainting. Other family members were seen crying and shouting curses about al-Maliki and Bush. Al-Zaidi was a journalist who worked for the television network al-Baghdadia. The network also called for his release shortly after the incident. Al-Zaidi explained his actions during an hourlong appearance in February in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq. Asked whether anyone pushed or motivated him, al-Zaidi said he was spurred by the “violations that are committed against the Iraqi people.” In the Middle East, throwing shoes at someone is traditionally a sign of contempt. Al-Zaidi, who faced a charge of assaulting a visiting head of state, had 17 lawyers to defend him. There were also three judges in the courtroom, along with the prosecutor and family members. The defense team argued that al-Zaidi’s act was an insult, not an assault, because he did not have a weapon on him. Al-Zaidi’s lawyers had told CNN that he could face as many as 15 years in prison. It was unclear why he received three years.