After weeks in detention, Muntadar al-Zaidi has at length received his sentence for simultaneously hurling a shoe at former American President George Bush, and realizing the aspirations of everyone with a sense of justice.
What isn’t justice is the three years that al-Zaidi now must eke out, just days after the sentencing of Tariq ‘Chemical Ali’ Aziz, a man undeniably guilty of crimes more worthy of jail time than the mere throwing of a shoe.
While al-Zaidi’s lawyers reasoned that the errant direction of the shoe does not qualify as an abrogation of the law against assaulting foreign dignitaries, the judge sentenced the journalist nonetheless, raising accusations that the court is less the court of Iraq, and more the court of America.
Which is unfathomably sad: the whole flimsy premise of the occupation of Iraq by foreign troops is to restore autonomy and a stable Iraqi infrastructure – how is this possible when a national – nay, international hero – is treated so harshly by his justice system, and one which is so eager to please the very power that is responsible for so many civilian deaths?
Doubtless, the affair must have proven a political pickle for Iraqi officials: on the one hand is a man that has garnered the admiration of people the world over; on the other, it must preserve its nascent diplomatic relations with a country that could prove invaluable to its reconstruction.
To allow al-Zaidi to escape with impunity would have guaranteed the loyalty and adulation of the Iraqi people, but would have isolated and stung America.
In a perfect world, al-Zaidi would have been acquitted: what human being could stand to be in the same room as the man responsible for the deaths of his family and neighbours, and maintain a quiet, respectful demeanour?
Bearing in mind the torture that al-Zaidi endured in custody renders the three years all the more daunting and tragic.
Here’s hoping that when al-Zaidi appeals – for he certainly must – a more favourable outcome will emerge, for it is a blow to the faith of the Iraqi people in their government and a feather in the cap of America.