Page last updated at 16:17 GMT, Tuesday, 2 June 2009 17:17 UK

Shoe thrower cleared of offence

Martin Jahnke
Martin Jahnke was accused of harassing the Chinese Premier

A protester who threw a training shoe at Chinese premier Wen Jiabao at Cambridge University has been cleared of committing any offence.

A judge said there was insufficient evidence to prove Martin Jahnke, 27, caused harassment, alarm or distress.

District Judge Ken Sheraton sitting at Cambridge Magistrates' Court found Mr Jahnke not guilty after two days.

Mr Jahnke had told the court he was "inspired" by an Iraqi who attacked George Bush in the same way.

The Cambridge University medical researcher said he objected to Chinese government human rights abuses and viewed his protest as an "iconic" defiance.

Mr Jahnke, from Darwin College at the University of Cambridge, disrupted the Chinese premier's speech in Cambridge on 2 February.

He denied using words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to Wen Jiabao or others.

His lawyer complained that the Chinese government had pressurised police and prosecutors into charging the researcher.

They argued that such acts of protest were normally handled internally by Cambridge University.

The Crown Prosecution Service denied that Chinese government officials influenced any decision-making.

I think it really became symbolic throwing a shoe - a symbol of defiance against a regime or authority that is not accountable to anybody
Martin Jahnke

Prosecutors told the district judge that Mr Jahnke blew a whistle, then called the premier "a dictator" and complained that university bosses were "prostituting" themselves.

The court heard he then threw a trainer, which landed a few yards from the Chinese leader.

Prosecutors said the throwing of the shoe was an action which went beyond lawful protest.

"It was a symbolic protest against the presence of the Chinese premier," Mr Jahnke told the court. "My aim was to show solidarity with the Chinese people not represented."

'Shoe thrower'

Mr Jahnke said he had thought there would be a larger scale protest at the lecture and had planned to join in.

He told the court that a shoe had been thrown at Mr Bush in Iraq a short time earlier and he had considered making a similar protest.

"I was inspired by the Iraqi shoe thrower," he said.

"I didn't want to hit the premier personally. I thought just placing the shoe on the stage would be universally understood. What it was meant to be was a symbolic protest. I didn't intend to hurt people."

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