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Shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist had been tortured for 'apology' to President Bush, says family

Shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist had been tortured
Um Zaman, aunt of TV reporter Muntadar al-Zaidi, speaks to journalists during a protest by Zaidi's relatives demanding his release from jail in central Baghdad December 19, 2008.Photo: Reuters / Saad Shalash

The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at US President George W Bush will go on trial this month on charges that carry up to 15 years in jail, Agence France-Presse (AFP) has reported quoting a judge. Zaidi became a hero to many in the Arab world when he threw his shoes at Bush during the US president's surprise visit to Iraq on December 14.

Investigating judge Dhiya al-Kenani rejected new allegations by the journalist's family that he had been tortured in custody that were levelled after a brother was allowed a first prison visit. "The investigation phase is over and the case has been transferred to the Central Criminal Court," Kenani said. "The trial will start on Wednesday, December 31."

The AFP report said: [Link]

Muntadar al-Zaidi stands accused of "aggression against a foreign head of state during an official visit," an offence that carries a prison term of between five and 15 years under Iraqi law. The court, however, could convict him of the lesser charge of an "attempted aggression" which carries a prison term of one to five years.

Kenani confirmed that Zaidi's lawyer had lodged a complaint over his treatment and that a letter would be sent to the office of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to request that security guards be brought to justice.

One of Zaidi's brothers, Uday, told AFP he had been able to visit him in custody for the first time on Sunday and charged that the journalist had been tortured by his captors to force him to sign a statement. "I met my brother for around an hour. He has been tortured while in detention for 36 hours continuously. He has been hit with iron rods and cables," the brother said.

"There is very severe bleeding in his eye, and he has bruises on his feet and nose, and he was also tortured with electric shocks. He was forced to sign a statement confessing to receiving money from different groups and saying that he did not throw his shoes for the honour of Iraq," Uday said. "But Muntadar said I will not apologise for what I did -- not now, not ever."

The New York Times had some details about the torture: [Link]

A spokesman for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki did not return phone calls seeking comment on Sunday about the allegations, but the Maliki government previously denied that Mr. Zaidi had been mistreated while in custody. It was Mr. Maliki’s security detail that detained Mr. Zaidi after he hurled his shoes. Mr. Zaidi was seen being beaten before he was pulled from the room where the news conference by Mr. Bush and Mr. Maliki was held.

On Sunday before the torture allegations were made public, Mr. Maliki said that he had received a letter from Mr. Zaidi saying that a terrorist had persuaded him to throw the shoes. “A person urged him to commit this act, and this person is known to us as a person who beheads people,” Mr. Maliki said, without divulging the person’s name.

Date posted: December 22, 2008 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 403