Published December 29, 2011
The man who was arrested for tossing his shoes at Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a speech earlier this month could face execution for his act of defiance.
Rashid Shahbandi, who has been in custody since his arrest at the time of the incident, has been tortured and is facing heavy punishment with a strong possibility of a death sentence, opposition groups told the Iran Khabar Agency, an independent news service.
The former textile worker, who had recently lost his job at the factory in the city of Sari, was in attendance there when Ahmadinejad was speaking to workers about the great achievements of his government.
Sources say Shahbandi, who is under financial distress due to the high medical cost of his son’s burn injuries, grew angry while listening to the speech and hurled his shoes — considered an ultimate insult across the Middle East — at Ahmadinejad.
Shahbandi has a history of defiance; he has previously insulted Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and thrown eggs at former President Sayyid Mohammad Khatami when he was in office.
It was not immediately clear when and if Shahbandi will have a trial.
At the time of his arrest, Western observers speculated that Shahbandi might have started a movement to ignite public discourse in Iran.
“Iran is an autocratic society. If people start to lose fear of that autocratic regime, then it collapses,” Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank, told FoxNews.com at the time of the incident.
“He might unfortunately be a little bit of a martyr. But Iranians rally around a martyr, which could make him a hero. The fact that someone doing this in public shows that there is cracks in the regime. Perhaps the Supreme Leader has no clothes.”