Muntadar al-Zeidi, the Iraqi journalist who went from obscurity to folk hero status in December when he threw his shoes at then-President George W. Bush, was sentenced to three years in jail today for “attempting to assault a foreign leader.” Zeidi said his behavior was “a natural reaction for the crimes committed against the Iraqi people.”
ABC News is revealing today polling data that shows Zeidi still enjoys broad support among the Iraqi populace, with 62 percent calling him a hero. His popularity was particularly broad among Sunni Arabs, with 84 percent of them saying the journalist was a hero.
Zeidi’s trial faced numerous delays, and the journalist was held totally incommunicado for nearly a month. His family has been concerned for his safety, amid reports of his mistreatment in detention. His brother organized a protest rally on his behalf in central Baghdad on Tuesday, but it was broken up by the army.
A spokesman for the Supreme Council of the Iraqi Magistrature defended the verdict, saying Zeidi had received a fair trial. There was concern that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was exerting undue pressure on the judges in his public condemnations of Zeidi, including calling the incident “a barbaric act.”