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Iraq frees shoe-throwing journalist

Aljazeera.net

15s-t-2009915101718706797_3.jpg

September 15, 2009

Muntadhar al-Zeidi, the television reporter jailed for throwing his shoes at George Bush, the former US president, last year has been released.

He was set to be freed on Monday but red tape delayed the decision by a day.

Addressing a news conference shortly after his release on Tuesday, al-Zeidi, 30, said he was tortured with beatings, whippings and electric shocks during his first few days in custody.

He was met outside the jail in Baghdad by parliamentarians who support his case, Uday al-Zeidi, his brother, said.

"Today I am free again but my home is still a prison," al-Zeidi said, in a swipe at the continued US military presence in Iraq six and half years after the invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.

Al-Baghdadiya television, his employer, showed footage of him arriving at its station to address the media surrounded by guards.

He was wrapped in an Iraqi flag and wore black sunglasses.

On al-Zeidi's arrival, the staff at Al-Baghdadiya slaughtered at least three sheep in his honour.

"Thanks be to God that Muntadher has seen the light of day," Uday said.

"I wish Bush could see our happiness. When President Bush looks back and turns the pages of his life, he will see the shoes of Muntadher al-Zeidi on every page."

Al-Zeidi was initially sentenced to three years for assaulting a foreign head of state, but had his jail time reduced to one year on appeal.

He shouted "it is the farewell kiss, you dog" at Bush on December 14 last year, seconds before hurling his size-10 shoes at him.

Huge embarrassment

Although Bush, who successfully ducked to avoid the speeding footwear, laughed off the attack, the incident caused huge embarrassment, to both him and Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister.

The leaders had been speaking at a joint news conference in Baghdad on what was Bush's farewell visit to Iraq prior to being succeeded in office by Barack Obama, then president-elect.

Al-Zeidi faces the prospect of a very different life from his previous existence as a journalist for Al-Baghdadia, a small, privately owned Cairo-based station, which has continued to pay his salary in jail.

His boss has promised the previously little-known reporter a new home as a reward for loyalty and the publicity that his actions, broadcast live across the world, generated for the station.

At Tuesday's news conference, al-Zeidi said: "At the time that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on television that he could not sleep without being reassured on my fate ... I was being tortured in the worst ways, beaten with electric cables and iron bars."

He said his guards had also used simulated drowning - the technique of water-boarding used by the Americans on suspects arrested over the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Al-Zeidi said he wanted an apology from al-Maliki.





:: Article nr. 57956 sent on 15-sep-2009 13:57 ECT

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Link: english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/09/200991591039210330.html



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