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Out of prison, shoe-throwing Iraqi scribe now fears for life

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 11:35:04 PM,

Muntadhar Al-Zeidi

Baghdad:The jailed Iraqi television reporter, Muntadhar Al-Zeidi who grabbed world headlines last year for throwing his shoes at the former U.S. President, George Bush, has been released.


The 30-year-old Al-Zeidi who was warmly received outside jail said later at a press conference on Tuesday that his freedom could be short-lived as he feared for his life at the hands of American intelligence operatives.


“These fearsome services, the U.S. intelligence services and its affiliated services, will spare no efforts to track me as an insurgent revolutionary ... in a bid to kill me,” he said. “And here I want to warn all my relatives and people close to me that these services will use all means to trap and try to kill and liquidate me either physically, socially or professionally.”


Al Zaidi also alleged of torture and beating while in custody. "Iraqi security forces also beat me, held my head under water to simulate drowning, then left me in the cold all night in the 24 hours after my arrest in December", Al-Zaidi said while speaking to reporters.


"At the same time Iraqi Prime Minister (Nuri al-Maliki) was saying he would not sleep until he made sure I was safe, I was being tortured in all sorts of ways," Al-Zaidi said.


"I demand an apology from al-Maliki for hiding the truth about my torture in custody," he said.


Al-Zeidi had a scarf in the colours of the Iraqi national flag draped around his neck. At one time during his interaction with the media, he said: “I am free again, but my homeland is still a prison.”


Earlier, his colleagues at the Al-Baghdadiya television and some Iraqi parliamentarians who had been supporting him received Al-Zeidi.


Al-Zeidi’s brother 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 Muntadher Al-Zeidi on every page.”


Al-Zeidi had been initially sentenced to three years for assaulting a foreign head of state, but his jail term was reduced to one year upon appeal. He was released three months earlier on grounds of good behaviour.


Al-Zeidi became a celebrity in the region overnight after he threw his shoes at former US President George Bush on December 14 last year and accompanied his footwear assault with the shout: “This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog. This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.”


Al-Zeidi has reportedly been flooded with offers of money, jobs and marriage from across the region. His relatives claim the Emir of Qatar has even offered Mr. Al-Zeidi a golden horse as gift for his symbolic but uniquely powerful form of protest.


















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