Shoe-throwing Kurd pardoned

Hokman Joma had served nearly all of his three-year sentence

Hokman Joma is taken to court in Seville by police officers in June 2010.
Hokman Joma is taken to court in Seville by police officers in June 2010.Julian Rojas (EL PAÍS)

After serving almost all of his three-year sentence, Hokman Joma, a Kurd who threw a shoe at Turkey's prime minister, has finally been released from prison.

Last week, the government formally pardoned Joma on the condition that he stay out of trouble for three years.

Shouting "Free Kurdistan," the 28-year-old failed to hit Tayyip Erdogan when the Turkish leader got into a car during a visit to the southern city of Seville in February 2010. Joma was immediately tackled by security guards and arrested.

Joma said during his trial that he never intended to hurt the Turkish prime minister, but simply to "draw attention" to the situation of the Kurdish people in Turkey. Throwing one's shoe at somebody is considered a grave insult in much of the Middle East, rather than an attempt at assault.

During two appeals, the courts ruled the three-year sentence was disproportionate, but said the law left them no alternative. "The necessary application of the law obliges the imposition of said penalty. It is true that the effective compliance with said penalty, in the absence of any previous wrongdoing by the defendant, could be said to be excessive, bearing in mind the damage done and the personal circumstances of the prisoner, and could justify moves toward some kind of total or partial pardon, but it is the minimum sentence that I can impose for what he did," ruled judge José Antonio Gómez.

Joma was charged with a crime against the international community in the form of an attack against authority.

"Real damage"

"I know that it was the Turkish prime minister, and that isn't the same as throwing a shoe at me, for example," Luis Ocaña, Joma's lawyer, said earlier this year. "But the problem is that the law was applied as though he had thrown a brick or a knife, something that could do real damage."

"The Turkish government has launched five wars against my people, it has killed thousands of women and children. The only thing that I wanted to do was to call attention to the question, so that people would know that the Kurdish people still do not have their own homeland," said Joma in his statement to the court.

Joma had already been out on parole since the beginning of November when the government granted the pardon.

An Iraqi journalist who tried to hit former US President George W. Bush with his shoes in Baghdad in 2008 had a three-year sentence reduced to 12 months.

The case prompted further criticism of the Spanish judicial system in light of the pardons granted by the government to four Catalan police officers found guilty of torturing an innocent man they accused of robbery.


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