Iraqi judge: Shoe tosser was beaten

West Bank family willing to offer one of its eligible females as a bride for reporter.

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December 19, 2008 15:50
3 minute read.
Iraqi judge: Shoe tosser was beaten

iraq shoe protest 248.88. (photo credit: AP)

 
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The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush during a news conference was beaten afterward and had bruises on his face and around his eyes, a judge said Friday. Judge Dhia al-Kinani, the magistrate investigating the incident, said the court has opened an investigation into the alleged beating of journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi. Al-Zeidi was wrestled to the ground after throwing his shoes during the news conference Sunday by Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and there have been conflicting claims on his condition since then. One of his brothers said he was harshly beaten, but another said he seemed to be in good condition. Al-Zeidi "was beaten in the news conference and we will watch the tape and write an official letter asking for the names of those who assaulted him," the judge told The Associated Press. "Al-Zeidi has the right to drop this case." The journalist was in custody and was expected to eventually face charges of insulting a foreign leader. A conviction could bring a sentence of two years in prison. Al-Kinani also confirmed that the journalist had written a letter of apology to al-Maliki. Iraq's president can grant pardons that are requested by the prime minister, but the judge said such a pardon can be issued only after a conviction. He added that he could not drop the case even though neither Bush nor al-Maliki had complained. "This case was filed because of an article in the law concerning the protection of the respect of sovereignty," he said. A spokesman for al-Maliki said Thursday that the letter contained a specific pardon request. But al-Zeidi's brother Dhargham told The AP that he suspected the letter was a forgery. The incident, a vivid demonstration of Iraqis' dismay over the US-led invasion and occupation of the country for more than five years, turned al-Zeidi into an instant folk hero. Thousands of demonstrators have demanded he be freed. About 20 members of his family protested at the edge of Baghdad's Green Zone on Friday and his brother Uday complained that "neither his attorney nor any family member has seen him." At Friday prayers in Baghdad's Shiite stronghold Sadr City, cleric Mohanad al-Moussawi told worshippers that "al-Zeidi's life must be protected and he must be immediately, immediately, immediately released." Sadr City protesters also laid down two American flags, hit them with shoes and burned them to protest al-Zeidi's detention. And in southern Kufa, crowds also protested the arrest by American forces of an official of Momahoudin, a militia led by radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr that was disbanded and turned into a social welfare group. The judge said the investigation would be completed and sent to the criminal court on Sunday, after which a court date would be set within seven to 10 days. Al-Zeidi's action was broadcast repeatedly on television stations around the world. US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack suggested that worldwide attention to the shoe-tossing was overblown. "We would hope that the fact of a US president standing next to a freely elected prime minister of Iraq who just happens to be Shia, who is governing in a multi-confessional, multi-ethnic democracy in the heart of the Middle East, is not overshadowed by one incident like this," McCormack told reporters in Washington. In the Iranian capital Tehran, hard-line Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati praised the act at Friday prayers, calling it the "Shoe Intifada." Jannati proposed people in Iraq and Iran should carry shoes in further anti-American demonstrations. "This should be a role model," said Jannati. He also proposed that the shoes themselves should be put in an Iraqi museum. But al-Kinani, the judge, said the shoes had been destroyed by investigators trying to determine if they had contained explosives. Also Friday, the head of a large West Bank family said it is willing to offer one of its eligible females as a bride for al-Zeidi. The leader, 75-year-old Ahmad Salim Judeh, said that the 500-member clan had raised $30,000 for al-Zeidi's legal defense.

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