Many Iraqis protested the verdict, saying al-Zeidi is a national hero who was expressing his right to free speech with the intent to insult Bush, not assault him.
“It was an act of throwing a shoe and not a rocket. It was meant an an insult to the occupation,” said chief defense lawyer Dhiya al-Saadi. “He was only expressing his feelings.”
Throwing shoes is a major insult in Arab culture.
“What he could see was the blood of Iraqis at his feet when he watched the U.S. president speaking about his achievements in Iraq,” his lawyer said.
Iraqis packed the Iraq Central Criminal Court in Baghdad’s Green Zone for the verdict – including al-Zeidi’s family and a team of two dozen defense lawyers.
“This is a political court,” said al-Zeidi’s brother, Uday. “Muntadhar is being treated like a prisoner of war.”
His defense team said they would appeal the sentence, which was the minimum. Al-Zeidi faced up to 15 years for assaulting a foreign leader.
A poll released Thursday showed that 62% of Iraqis think al-Zeidi is a national hero for his actions.
“Al-Zeidi should have been honored and not sent to prison,” said Salam Omar, a mobile phone shop owner in east Baghdad.
The media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders called the sentence “cynical in a country where so many of the people who kill journalists are never brought to justice.”
Al-Zeidi was jailed on Dec. 14 after hurling both of his shoes at Bush’s head as he stood next to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during his last visit to the country as president.