al-Zaidi should have thrown custard not shoes

March 6, 2009

Muntadhar al-Zaidi was beaten, allegedly tortured, and remains on trial for the crime of hurling a shoe at George W Bush.

Today, an environmental protester, Leila Deen, seems to have got away with upending a container of green custard over Peter Mandelson. If she was arrested, it was not reported, even though her missile of choice hit its mark whereas the surprisingly agile Dubya evaded al-Zaidi’s.

So what’s the take-home from all this? That Deen got away lightly? That the response to al-Zaidi’s transgression was distinctly over the top? A bit of both?

Does it say something about the relative importance of the (then) President of the US of A compared with Mandelson, who despite his profile and influence in the British Government, has never quite wielded that level of power?

Is it to do with the norms of behaviour for American presidential bodyguards versus British coppers? The security hyperparanoia where anything to do with Iraq is concerned? Or is a pantomime villain like Mandelson simply regarded as fair game?

I’m quite clear on the fact that al-Zaidi’s action was palpably worse than Deen’s. At the very least he put a lot more passsion and vitriol into it, in a sensitive situation, and with a higher profile target. But we’re still talking about a protester expressing their views by lobbing something at a poitician in a way unlikely to cause injury. Does the difference between al-Zaidi’s crime and Deen’s explain the disparity in punishment?

I remain confused. Someone please explain it to me.

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  1. Well, Deen did indeed get off with a caution, and al-Zaidi has had his sentence reduced to 1 year on the basis that his crime will be regarded as an insult rather than an assault directed at a foreign leader. There is still a bit of a disparity between the two but generally moving in the right direction.

    I guess the fact that al-Zaidi insulted a foreign politician should carry a greater sentence as it damages ones country’s reputation overseas.

    We should now be able to draw a line under this.

  2. Meantime al-Zaidi gets 3 years. It’s all happening. Leila Deen due in court next month. If we were to see broad parity with the al-Zaidi sentence (ignoring minor issues such as fairness and justice) she would be looking at a custodial sentence, at least 12 months I’d say.

    For my money I’d let both walk, after a stern talking to and a warning to stay out of trouble in future.

  3. Deen now arrested and out on bail. More details here.

    At least, no hint of her getting roughed up or tortured.

  4. It looks like Leila Deen was not arrested because Peter Mandelson, being a good sport, did not press charges.

    But others are now wading in with John Prescott calling for her arrest.

    The surprise is that he did not chastise Peter for failing to land a decent punch on her.

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