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Aussie shoe-thrower irritated by former premier

Last Updated: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - 10:30

Sydney: An Australian activist who shocked viewers by hurling his shoes at former prime minister John Howard during a live TV show Tuesday said he was trying to strike a blow for victims of the Iraq war.

Peter Gray, 30, said he did not plan to lob his Dunlop Volley trainers at the conservative ex-leader, but became inflamed by Howard`s "offensive" reply to a question.

"It sort of crossed my mind to do it but I wasn`t hell-bent on it. It was really motivated by what I considered to be an offensive response from John Howard to the questions that were put to him," Gray told AFP.

"To simply say `I defend my position` without really defending it, I find quite insulting. Simply being quizzed and brushing off questions like that is not truly being held accountable."

Gray stood up and threw the sneakers midway through Monday night`s "Q&A", a current affairs debate programme broadcast live from Sydney by public network ABC. He missed his target.

Gray earlier appeared agitated when he asked Howard to defend the Iraq war after the then prime minister had sent Australian troops to help the US-led invasion and occupation.

Howard reiterated his belief that the invasion was "justified on a number of grounds" including intelligence findings that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

"When I threw the shoes I said, `that`s for the Iraqi dead, and this is for the Iraqi living`," Gray said.

"That`s really the reason I threw the shoes, to deliver the message to those who are still there in Iraq and living with the consequences of our invasion of that country (that) not all Australians supported that war.

"The real instigators of that war are a small group of men at the top who we`ll endeavour to hold accountable."

Howard smiled and appeared unfazed by the stunt, which followed a surprise recorded question from "Aussie Taliban" David Hicks, a former Guantanamo Bay inmate, during a series of tough questions about his 11-year rule.

Gray said he wanted to embarrass Howard rather than hurt him, stressing that the shoes were "soft". He said he was briefly detained by security before being released, but did not know the whereabouts of his now-infamous Dunlops.

"I would love to know. If they ever show up I think they should be auctioned and the proceeds go to some charity in Iraq," he said.

Iraqi TV reporter Muntazer al-Zaidi threw his shoes at then US president George W. Bush in December 2008 during a Baghdad news conference, and there have been copycat incidents targeting politicians around the world since.

Howard himself was targeted by a boot-throwing Australian during a debate at Britain`s Cambridge University in October 2009. A quick-thinking student caught the footwear mid-air.

Bureau Report

First Published: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - 10:30
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