Pardon in sight for shoe-throwing Kurd

Man who lobbed object at Turkish prime minister is nearing the end of his sentence

Reyes Rincón
The Syrian Kurd Hokman Joma.
The Syrian Kurd Hokman Joma. Julian Rojas (EL PAÍS)

A Syrian Kurd imprisoned for throwing his shoe at the Turkish prime minister outside Seville's City Hall moved one step closer to receiving absolution on Tuesday.

The public prosecutor's office has ruled in favor of pardoning Hokman Joma, who has been serving jail time since launching his shoe at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he left Seville City Hall after collecting a prize on February 22, 2010.

The shoe failed to hit its target, but Joma was nevertheless handed a three-year sentence for a crime against the international community for attacking an authority figure.

During his trial Joma said he had just wanted his action to "draw attention" to the situation of Turkish Kurds, rather than hurt Erdogan. Throughout the Middle East, throwing your shoe at someone is considered a serious insult, rather than assault.

The public prosecutor's ruling comes just four months before the 29-year-old is due to complete his sentence. Joma was granted parole this summer and his lawyer has asked for him to be transferred to an open prison, though a decision is yet to be made on that request.

The two courts that previously ruled in the case, a criminal court and the provincial High Court in Seville, both agreed that the three-year sentence - the legal minimum that could be handed down for such an attack - was disproportionate in this case, leaving the door open for a pardon.

Joma's lawyer initiated proceedings to apply for a pardon, and on August 22, 2011, the Justice Ministry, then under the direction of Francisco Caamaño of the Socialist Party, requested the case file from the judge.

However, it wasn't until last February that the procedure was begun to consider the pardon. The magistrate had to bring together the public prosecutor's report, his own report and, if he considered it advisable, that of the prison board, in order to send a file to the Justice Ministry for the minister to decide whether or not to proceed.

"Excellent behavior"

Sources in the public prosecutor's office say the report only arrived from the judge last Monday.

On Tuesday morning the public prosecutor issued its ruling in favor of granting a pardon to Joma, basing its decision on a prison report that categorized his behavior as "excellent."

It also took into account the "not particularly serious nature of the facts" for which he was sentenced, and that there were no harmful consequences.

The ruling represents a change of position for the public prosecutor, which charged Joma during the trial and asked to exchange his prison sentence for deportation to Syria.

It was Joma himself who pleaded not to be taken back to his native country during the trial because he feared he would be tortured and the authorities would allow him to die in prison.

Joma's lawyer, Luis Ocaña, said he was "very satisfied" with the public prosecutor's decision, though regretted it had come so late. With just four months to go before Joma is due to be released, Ocaña said that obtaining a pardon would have been "more symbolic than having real consequences."

According to a ruling passed on October 22 by the judge who sentenced him, Joma will complete his sentence on February 20 next year.

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