29 Dec 2008

Green Party urges Britain to offer asylum to the Baghdad shoe-thrower


Iraqi shoe-thrower – offer him asylum

Torture and prosecution condemned

Green Party urges Britain to offer asylum to the Baghdad shoe-thrower

London, UK – 29 December 2008

"The Green Party calls on the British government to condemn the
torture and prosecution of the Baghdad shoe-thrower, Muntadar
al-Zaidi, and to demand his immediate release and the dropping of all
charges against him. If Mr al-Zaidi feels it is no longer safe for him
to remain in Iraq, we urge Gordon Brown to offer him political asylum
in the UK," said Peter Tatchell, the human rights spokesperson for the
Green Party of England and Wales, and the party's parliamentary
candidate for Oxford East.

"The overthrow of Saddam Hussein was supposed to usher in a new era of
democracy and human rights. The torture and prosecution of the
shoe-thrower is an ugly revival of the abuses that existed under the
Baathist dictatorship. It is not what we expect in post-Saddam Iraq,"
added Mr Tatchell.

Mr al-Zaidi is due to stand trial in Baghdad on Wednesday 31 December.

Meanwhile, to express his support for the shoe-thrower, Norwich Green
councillor Rupert Read, the Green Party's lead candidate for the
Eastern Region in the June 2009 European Parliament elections, has
posted a pair of his old shoes, one each to Gordon Brown and George
Bush, and posted a video of his doing so on the internet:

http://tinyurl.com/82tq8n

Peter Tatchell explained why the Green Party is backing the shoe-thrower:

"Mr al-Zaidi's protest was a courageous, symbolic gesture to challenge
the US President's illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, the mass
civilian casualties caused by the war, the use of torture by US
military forces and the US attempt to rip off Iraq's oil wealth.

"His heroic action was in the fine traditions of the young men who
burned their draft cards to protest against the US war in Vietnam and
of the Black Power salutes by Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968
Mexico Olympics in protest at the racist discrimination suffered by
African-Americans.

"Mr al-Zaidi's did not physically harm anyone or cause any damage –
only embarrassment to President Bush and the Iraqi Prime Minister,
Nouri al-Maliki. Causing embarrassment should not be a crime. To
prosecute him for this protest is petty and disproportionate;
unbefitting Iraq's new democracy," said Mr Tatchell.

There is evidence that Mr al-Zaidi has been beaten in the face by
prison guards, and his brother says that Muntadar has lost a tooth,
has had ribs broken and has been burned with cigarettes.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7795428.stm


Mr al-Zaidi could face between five and 15 years in prison, under
draconian Iraqi laws that echo Saddam Hussein's repressive tyranny.

Cllr. Read explained why he posted his shoes to the British Prime
Minister and the US President:

"I thought this was a good way to highlight my support for the
show-thrower and to remind the government of its duty to defend human
rights in Iraq. Maybe if enough of us do this and protest in other
ways, then the spotlight of publicity will shame the governments of
Iraq, Britain and the US into treating this courageous protester more
fairly and humanely."

"Al-Zaidi's trial starts on 31 December. Let's keep this man, with
whom so many of us sympathise, out of prison. The charges against him
should be dropped. Given the physical brutality he has already
suffered, Muntadar deserves his immediate freedom," said Cllr. Read.

Further information:

Peter Tatchell – 0207 403 1790

Councillor Rupert Read - 01603 219294

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