Iraq frees shoe-throwing journalist

Muntadhar al-Zeidi, jailed for insulting George Bush, says he was beaten in custody.

    Al-Zeidi became a hero to many in the Arab world after the incident of December 14 [AP]

    Obama warning

    Speaking on Tuesday, 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."

    In video

     Al-Zeidi addresses the media
     Al-Zeidi defends shoe throwing
     Iraqi journalist jailed for Bush shoe attack 

    He said his guards had also used simulated drowning - the technique of waterboarding used by the US forces on suspects arrested over the September 11, 2001, attacks.

    He told Al Jazeera: "I did this as a revenge for the victims and people killed in Iraq ... now the new US politicians should deal with Arabs properly ... as respectful counterparts not like slaves. I am neither afraid nor regretting what I did."

    "Today I am free again but my home is still a prison," he added. 

    The US has kept its military presence in Iraq for six and half years since it led an invasion to remove Saddam Hussein, the former president.

    Al-Baghdadiya television, al-Zeidi's employer, showed footage of him arriving at the station wrapped in an Iraqi flag and wearing sunglasses.

    The staff slaughtered at least three sheep in his honour.

    Uday al-Zeidi 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 Muntadhar al-Zeidi on every page."

    Huge embarrassment

    Mosab Jasim, Al Jazeera's producer in Iraq, said: "I used to go to press conferences with Muntadhar. He's a stable man, not that radical, so I was really surprised that he did that.

    "I think that, as he was listening to George Bush and the achievements he said he'd made in Iraq, for an Iraqi man who's been reporting on the suffering of the Iraqi people, I think he just couldn't control himself."

    Although Bush laughed off the attack, it caused embarrassment to both him and al-Maliki.

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

    Al-Zeidi faces the prospect of a very different life from his previous existence at 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.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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