Reporting from Baghdad — “Long live Iraq,” Muntather Zaidi declared in court today, according to his lawyers, after a judge sentenced the improbable hero of Iraqi nationalists to three years in prison for hurling his shoes at former President George W. Bush.
Outside the courtroom, his supporters and relatives erupted in jeers over the verdict for the journalist who gained international attention in December when at a news conference in Baghdad he called Bush a dog and lobbed his footwear at him.
“This is an American court. Those are their agents,” family members and supporters chanted. “Down, down to Iraqi judiciary. Down, down [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri] Maliki. Zaidi is a hero.”
Sobbing relatives and his lawyers vowed to appeal the ruling, which appeared to tap patriotic fervor in Iraq six years after the U.S.-led invasion. Many lived vicariously through the oft-televised footage of Zaidi’s deed at a Dec. 14 news conference held by Maliki with Bush, in his last visit as president.