• 13:10
  • Thursday ,17 September 2009

Bush 'shoe thrower' claims he was tortured in prison


International News


Wednesday ,16 September 2009

Bush 'shoe thrower' claims he was tortured in prison

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The Iraqi man who threw his shoes at then-President George W. Bush last year said Tuesday that he was beaten and tortured while he was detained.

Muntadhar al-Zaidi told reporters after he was released that he was beaten with cables and pipes and tortured with electricity immediately after guards removed him from a news conference for hurling both shoes at Bush.

He said he was taken into another room and beaten even as the press conference continued.

"At the time that (Iraqi) 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 was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying.

However he remained defiant about the incident that landed him in prison.

"I got my chance and I didn't miss it," he told reporters.
"I am not a hero and I admit that," he added. "I am a person with a stance. I saw my country burning."

Al-Zaidi, who was serving a one-year sentence after the jail-throwing incident on December 14, was given a "conditional discharge."

Under Iraqi law, a "conditional discharge" allows for the release of a prisoner after he serves three-quarters of his sentence, on good behavior.

After his release the 30-year-old journalist was led into the studios of his employer, Al-Baghdadia TV, where he spoke to the media wearing a sash in the colors of the Iraqi national flag around his shoulders. Watch more about Al-Zaidi's release »

Al-Zaidi said he was compelled to act after witnessing what the U.S. invasion had wrought on his country: orphans, widows, refugees.

He said that he promised those affected by the war that should he get the opportunity, he would avenge their loss.

That chance came at a December 14 news conference when al-Zaidi threw both his shoes at Bush and called him a "dog" -- two of the worst insults in the Middle East. Bush ducked the shoes and was not hurt.

During his remarks, al-Zaidi offered one apology: to fellow journalists who perceived his act as unprofessionalism. Was a jail sentence too harsh a punishment?

"Professionalism does not preclude nationalism," he said.

Al-Zaidi was sentenced to jail for "assaulting a foreign head of state on an official visit to Iraq."

His original three-year sentence was reduced to a single year by an appellate court in April.

The journalist's family and supporters had waited for two days outside the Baghdad jail where he was held, initially hoping he would be freed on Monday, but procedural delays kept that from happening.

Last week, al-Zaidi's family prepared for his release, plastering the walls of their modest Baghdad home with his posters.

"We are happy, like any detainee's family would be happy for the release of its son after the bitter time he spent in jail," brother Dhirgham al-Zaidi said.

He said the family had received many phone calls from supporters across the country who planned to travel to Baghdad and welcome al-Zaidi after his release.

Though many Iraqis hold Bush in low esteem, opinions were mixed in Iraq following the incident. Some viewed al-Zaidi as a hero, with thousands taking to the streets, calling for his release; others said his act went against Arab traditions of honoring guests.

Al-Zaidi's brothers said they had been offered many gifts and financial rewards, though they had rejected them.