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Iraqis take to the streets over arrest of journalist who threw shoes at US President Bush

Iraqis take to the streets over arrest of journalist
Shoed away: A grab from the pool video, courtesy of CNN, shows US President George W Bush (left) ducking as a journalist hurled two shoes at him on his farewell visit to Iraq on December 14. Iraq faced mounting calls on Monday to release the journalist who hurled the shoes, an action branded shameful by the government but hailed by many in the Arab world as an ideal parting gift to the unpopular president.Photo: Agence France-Presse (AFP) / CNN

Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets Monday to demand the release of a journalist who threw his shoes at US President George W Bush, news agencies have reported.

Journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi, who was abducted by Shiite militants last year, was being held by Iraqi security and interrogated about whether anybody paid him to throw his shoes at Bush during a press conference the previous day in Baghdad, the Associated Press (AP) reported quoting an Iraqi official. Al-Zaidi was also being tested for alcohol and drugs, and his shoes were being held as evidence.

Showing the sole of one's shoe to someone in the Arab world is a sign of extreme disrespect, and throwing them at a person is even worse.

More from the AP report: [Link]

"This is a farewell kiss, you dog," al-Zaidi yelled in Arabic as he threw his shoes. "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq." Al-Zaidi, who is in his late 20s, was abducted by Shiite militias on November 16, 2007, and released three days later.

Al-Zaidi was immediately wrestled to the ground by Iraqi security guards. The incident raised fears of a security lapse in the heavily guarded Green Zone where the press conference took place. Reporters were repeatedly searched and asked to show identification before entering and while inside the compound, which houses Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office and the US Embassy.

Al-Zaidi's tirade was echoed by Arabs across the Middle East who are fed up with US policy in the region and still angry over Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein. The response to the incident by Arabs in the street was ecstatic.

Hoping to capitalise on this sentiment, al-Zaidi's TV station, Al-Baghdadia, repeatedly aired pleas to release the reporter Monday, while showing footage of explosions and playing background music that denounced the US in Iraq.

"We have all been mobilised to work on releasing him, and all the organisations around the world are with us," said Abdel-Hameed al-Sayeh, the manager of Al-Baghdadia in Cairo, where the station is based. Al-Jazeera television interviewed Saddam's former chief lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi, who offered to defend al-Zaidi, calling him a "hero."

The White House, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP) said Bush ducked to avoid the first shoe, while the second narrowly missed the president. Bush said: "Thanks for apologising on behalf of the Iraqi people. It doesn't bother me. If you want the facts, it was a size 10 shoe that he threw". Playing down the incident, the president later added: "I don't know what the guy's cause is... I didn't feel the least bit threatened by it."

Date posted: December 15, 2008 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 235