Muntathar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush during what was supposed to a press conference has been sentenced to three years in an Iraqi prison. The sentence drew some immediate outrage in Iraq as many Iraqi citizens have grown tired of the U.S. occupation of their country and the estimated 1,311,696 deaths that it has helped to cause.
Certainly, the actions of journalist al-Zaidi were an unacceptable example of political protest during the visit by a foreign head of state. The security of foreign heads of state must be completely assured, and any threats or actions against these heads of state is not acceptable in the least. President Bush should have had the complete assurance of his safety and the ability to deliver his statements without facing protests or actions by anyone that might have constituted some threat while in the supposed safety of a secure press conference. The actions of al-Zaidi were certainly a form of disorderly conduct, but in reality posed little real physical threat to the president. The three year sentence seems especially harsh in this light.
Further, the Iraqi jail and prison system is especially notorious for allowing torture, beatings and deaths to take place at hands of Iraqi militia members as well as guards. A three year prison sentence might just as well be a death sentence for this reporter.
Unfortunately, the Iraqi jail and prison system is probably about as honorable as the prison system of a terrible nation such as North Korea. And the justice system is about as fair as any kangaroo court system in some countries like North Korea as well.
On one hand, the Iraqi government needs to send a message that the security of foreign heads of state can be assured while in their country, but on the other hand the government of Iraq also needs to be fair in the administration of justice as well and set a tone that it is a better government than that of Saddam Hussein. But so far there's been little difference in the torture, abuse and death of prisoners between the two regimes. "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss".
American comics like Jay Leno have had many laughs at the expense of this shoethrowing story. However, the three year sentence of this reporter could take a very tragic turn if he is killed in captivity by his jailers. Once again, Mideast justice is an embarrassment to the world community. Today's Iraqi justice and prison system is hardly an improvement over the old Saddam Regime in too many ways.
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