The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former U.S. president George W. Bush did not apologize as his trial began yesterday, and instead struck a defiant tone, telling the judges he wanted to hit back at the humiliation Iraq had suffered at American hands.
It was Muntadhar al-Zeidi's first public appearance since he was arrested in mid-December for hurling shoes at Mr. Bush during a joint news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The act turned the obscure 30-year-old reporter into a cult hero in much of the Middle East.
"What made me do it was the humiliation Iraq has been subjected to due to the U.S. occupation and the murder of innocent people," Mr. al-Zeidi told the court. "I wanted to restore the pride of the Iraqis in any way possible, apart from using weapons."
He also said he had been tortured, with beatings and electric shocks during his interrogation, allegations the Iraqi government has denied. The trial was later adjourned until March 12.
Dozens of cheering supporters greeted Mr. al-Zeidi as he arrived at the courthouse in western Baghdad in an Iraqi army Humvee. As the journalist walked into the courtroom, his aunt handed him a scarf imprinted with a red, black and green Iraqi flag, which he kissed. He wrapped the scarf around his neck and wore it proudly during his 30-minute testimony to the three-judge panel.
Many people in the region - angry over the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq - have embraced Mr. al-Zeidi. They have staged large street rallies calling for his release, and one Iraqi man erected a sofa-sized sculpture of a shoe in his honour that the Iraqi government later ordered removed.
Mr. al-Zeidi told the court yesterday that he did not intend to harm Mr. Bush or embarrass Mr. al-Maliki, but he did not apologize for his actions.
He conceded he had recorded himself planning to insult Mr. Bush at a news conference in Amman, Jordan, two years ago but he ended up not going to the neighbouring country.
"And, yes, I said that to the Prime Minister's guards after I was beaten and suffering from electric shocks," he added.
My earlier posts about this are here, here, here and here. The Launch A Shoe At Bush Game was one of wmtc's highest traffic posts, ever.