Iraqi Shoe-Thrower Sentenced to 3 Years in Jail

Family calls sentence against Iraqi journalist harsh and "politicized."

BAGHDAD, March 12, 2009— -- The Iraqi journalist who was arrested in December after throwing a pair of shoes at President Bush was sentenced to three years in jail today.

After hearing his sentence in a Baghdad courtroom, Muntazer al-Zaidi shouted, "Long live Iraq," The Associated Press reported.

The case attracted worldwide attention and sparked intense debate throughout the Arab world.

His family and attorneys said the sentence was excessively harsh.

"The whole case was politicized," Zaidi's brother Dhirgham, who attended the sentencing, told ABC News. It was "an unjust verdict."

His brother Maytham told ABC News that "my brother didn't follow any political party. He is independent. My brother used to always say that he is a Sunni. He is a Shiite. He represents all the Iraqis."

The incident occurred during a Dec. 14 news conference in Baghdad with Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Zaidi, who was a correspondent for Al-Baghdadiya television, had always planned to throw shoes at Bush.

Before he put his plan into action, he reportedly handed a note to his cameraman that read, "It's an honor to die as a martyr."

Bush ducked to avoid the shoes and was not hurt. Officials wrestled Zaidi to the ground and arrested him.

Abdul Sattar Al Berqdar, a spokesman for the Iraqi Criminal Court, told ABC News that Zaidi was sentenced to three years in jail according to article No. 23 of the Iraqi Judicial Law, "Attacking a visiting foreign president."

Berqdar also added that "Zaidi has the right to appeal within a period of one month."

The court could have sentenced Zaidi to up to 15 years in jail but his attorneys argued for leniency.

Dhia Al Saadi, one of Zaidi's lawyers who is the head of the Iraqi Lawyers Syndicate, argued that "the court sessions should be made public according to the Iraqi penalties law."

Arab Reaction to Shoe-Thrower Sentence

Zaidi, who was kept under detention since Dec. 14, is considered a national hero among many Iraqis.

Ali, a resident of Karradah, told ABC News, "Throwing the shoe at Bush is [a] great act and it was more like a payback," not a crime.