Iraq Judges Says Shoe-Thrower Beaten
BAGHDAD — The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush during a news conference was beaten and had bruises around his eyes and other parts of his face, a judge said Friday.
Judge Dhia al-Kinani, the magistrate investigating the incident, said the court has opened a probe into the alleged beating of journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi during the news conference.
Al-Zeidi was wrestled to the ground after throwing his shoes at Bush Sunday as he stood beside Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at the news conference in Baghdad, and there have been conflicting claims about his condition since then.
The journalist has not been seen in public since his arrest. One of his brothers claimed he had been 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.
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 U.S.-led invasion and occupation of the country for more than five years, turned al-Zeidi into an instant folk hero. Thousands of Iraqis have demonstrated for his release.
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 his detention. And in southern city of 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 al-Zeidi 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. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack suggested that worldwide attention to the shoe-tossing was overblown.
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,” he said.
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 offered 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.