Iraq - Call for leniency for Muntadar al-Zaidi after shoe throwing protest
December 16, 2008
Montreal - Reporters Without Borders today called for the release of Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi, of al-Bagdhadia television arrested after hurling his shoes at George W Bush at a Baghdad press conference during a surprise visit by the US president on 14 December 2008.
"We obviously regret that the journalist used this method of protest against the politics of the American president", the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "But for humanitarian reasons and to ease tension, we call for the release of Muntadar al-Zaidi who has been held by the Iraqi authorities for two days."
"Given the controversy surrounding this incident, we urge the Iraqi security services to guarantee the physical wellbeing of this journalist, who was clearly injured during his arrest", it added.
"While we do not approve of this kind of behaviour as a means of expressing an opinion or convictions, the relaxed way in which George W Bush spoke about the incident afterwards, should give the Iraqi authorities all the more reason to show leniency", the organisation concluded.
Head of operations at the interior ministry, Abdel Karim Khalaf, told Reporters Without Borders that Muntadar al-Zaidi had been caught red handed and that he faced proceedings under Articles 223, 225 and 227 of the Iraqi criminal code. The journalist could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison for "insulting a foreign head of state". Muntadar al-Zaidi is being examined by judges in connection with the investigation. Abdel Karim Khalaf said the he had not been subjected to any ill-treatment before concluding, "A journalist's only weapons are words".
Muntadar al-Zaidi achieved instant notoriety as a result of his gesture seen on television screens around the world.
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