I would argue that this guy should never have gone to prison at all (he’s a hero for doing what he did!), but hey–at least he’s getting out:

An Iraqi journalist jailed after hurling his shoes at former President George W. Bush will be released next month after his sentence was reduced for good behavior, his lawyer said Saturday.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi’s act during Bush’s last visit to Iraq as president turned the 30-year-old reporter into a folk hero across the Arab world amid anger over the 2003 invasion.

He has been in custody since the Dec. 14 outburst, which occurred as Bush was holding a joint news conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

He was initially sentenced to three years after pleading not guilty to assaulting a foreign leader, then the court reduced it to one year because the journalist had no prior criminal history.

Defense attorney Karim al-Shujairi said al-Zeidi will now be released on Sept. 14, three months early.

“We have been informed officially about the court decision,” al-Shujairi told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “His release will be a victory for the free and honorable Iraqi media.”

Off early for good behavior? Sentence reduced for having no priors?

Well, shit.

What he did was nothing but good old-fashioned freedom of speech. In the Arab world, it’s customary to show the bottom of your feet–or the soles of your shoes–to anyone you hold in absolute contempt. This gesture was less an assault than it was a harangue, especially since neither shoe hit its target. I think he was being jailed to send a message to anyone else who might be considering telling King George the Dubya, in no uncertain terms, where to get off. And the message was: Don’t even think about it.

This ruling, while welcome, is just a good end to a bad situation. It would have been a real victory for press freedom in Iraq if he had never been taken into custody in the first place, but of course, nobody–not even the “War President” and self-styled liberator–was willing to let Iraq’s supposed newfound freedom actually go that far!

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