Tuesday, December 16, 2008

President George W. Bush Shoed Out In Iraq

Left: In this image from APTN video, US President George W. Bush, left, ducks as a man throws a shoe at him, during a news conference with Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008, in Baghdad, Iraq. On an Iraq trip shrouded in secrecy and marred by dissent, President George W. Bush on Sunday hailed progress in the war that defines his presidency and got a size-10 reminder of his unpopularity when a man hurled two shoes at him during a news conference. (AP Photo)

An Iraqi Official stated that the Shoe-thrower is in Iraqi military custody

BAGHDAD (AP) — An Iraqi government official says the journalist who threw his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush has been handed over to the Iraqi military command in Baghdad.

The official says Muntadhar al-Zeidi has been turned over to the prime minister's security guards to face further investigation by the military agency in charge of enforcing law in Baghdad. The official spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday because he was not authorized to talk to the news media.

Left: A shoe is raised during a protest against the US President's visit in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday. Dec. 15, 2008. Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi threw his shoes at President George W. Bush during a press conference in Baghdad on Sunday, while yelling in Arabic.(AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Thousands took to the streets in Iraq on Monday to protest after Al-Zeidi was taken into custody for throwing his shoes at the president during a Sunday news conference. He could face charges of insulting a foreign leader and the Iraqi prime minister, who was standing next to Bush.

Zaidi jumped up as Bush was holding a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Sunday, shouted "It is the farewell kiss, you dog" and threw two shoes at the U.S. leader.

Both missed after Bush ducked but Zaidi was dragged struggling and screaming from the room by security guards and could be heard shouting outside while the news conference continued after momentary mayhem.

Muntazer al-Zaidi a hero across the Arab world

Left: Security forces pounce on an Iraqi journalist who caused a furore when he hurled his shoes at visiting US President George W. Bush during a press conference in Baghdad. Iraq faced mounting calls on Monday to release the journalist who hurled his shoes at Bush, an action branded shameful by the government but hailed by many in the Arab world as an ideal parting gift to the unpopular US president. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi threw two shoes at Bush and called him a "dog" and said "this is for the widows and children of Iraq" during a Baghdad news conference on Sunday, an act that has won him instant fame across the world and wide support in the Middle East.

Durgham Zaidi said his brother Muntazer has a broken arm and ribs after being struck by Iraqi security agents.

"He has got a broken arm and ribs, and cuts to his eye and arm," said Durgham.

Durgham said he had been told that his brother was being held by Iraqi forces in the heavily fortified Green Zone compound in central Baghdad where the U.S. embassy and most government offices are housed.

Meanwhile, although the Iraqi government branded the act as shameful and Washington said Zaidi did not represent the majority of Iraqi people, the Arab world hailed the incident as an ideal parting gift to an unpopular U.S. president.

"Throwing the shoes at Bush was the best goodbye kiss ever... it expresses how Iraqis and other Arabs hate Bush," wrote Musa Barhoumeh, editor of Jordan's independent Al-Gahd newspaper.

Thousands of Iraqis joined demonstrations to protest at Bush's farewell visit to Iraq and demanded Baghdad immediately release Zaidi.

A Baghdad shopkeeper Hamza Mahdi, 30 said: "I don't like Bush, but I don't agree with this action -- it's not civilized," he said. "Journalists should use pen and paper to make their point and not their shoes."

One of his customers, Um Seif, 45, disagreed. "Me, I support him. Everyone should support him," she said. "Don't you remember what the Americans did to us? Have you already forgotten?"

Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's movement called him a hero and a Sunni Muslim body labeled him an "icon of the resistance against the occupation."

And in Libya, a charity headed by Muammar Gaddafi's daughter Aisha announced it would award Zaidi an "order of courage" for his actions. In Lebanon, the Shiite militant group Hezbollah said he should be regarded as a hero.

Dream come true

Left: Muntazer al-Zaidi has wanted to hit Bush with a shoe for a long time (meo.com)

Zaidi, 29, had long dreamt of a dramatic gesture to symbolize his opposition to the war that brought death and destruction to his country.

Although both shoes missed their target, Zaidi captured the world's attention with an act colleagues said he had plotted for months because he "detested America" and the man who ordered the war on his country.

His brother Durgham said Zaidi had been detained for a day by U.S. forces at the beginning of the year and that he had been kidnapped in the heart of Baghdad in November 2007 and held for a week by unknown captors.

The Baghdad-born Zaidi lives alone in a furnished two-room apartment in the capital on Rashid Road, the city's historic centre.

An AFP journalist who visited the building on Monday said his home contained books on politics and religion in Arabic and English, as well as a photograph of revolutionary icon Ernesto 'Che' Guevara.

"He devoted most of his time to Al-Baghdadia, the Egypt-based news channel, which he joined at its launch in September 2005," Zaidi's 32-year-old brother Durgham told AFP.

"He's a rather nervous type, and above all hates violence and the bombing," he added.

"Like everyone in our family he hates the occupation and considers Bush to have destroyed Iraq and killed its people. His actions restore Iraqi dignity."

Zaidi's aunt Umm Zaman, who lives in the same building, described her nephew's deed as the realization of a long-held wish.

"For a long time he has wanted to hit Bush with a shoe, and at last his dream has come true," she said.

In the defense of Zaidi

Left: Khalil al-Dulaimi, was Saddam Hussein's chief attorney. (Muhammad Hamed/Reuters)

His employer, independent Al-Baghdadiya television demanded his immediate release, "in accordance with the democratic era and the freedom of expression that Iraqis were promised by U.S authorities."

Saddam Hussein's former lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, said on Monday that he was forming a team to defend the Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at US President George W. Bush during his farewell visit to Baghdad.

"So far around 200 Iraqi and other lawyers, including Americans, have expressed willingness to defend the journalist for free," the Amman-based Khalil al-Dulaimi told AFP.

"I took the decision on Sunday night to defend the man after the incident. I am currently contacting Arab bar associations to form a defence committee."


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