Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Iraqi Shoe Thrower Claims He Was Tortured

Remember Muntazer al-Zaidi? He was the Iraqi journalist who turned into a regional folk hero after he chucked both his shoes at then-President George W. Bush during a press conference last December. That act earned him a three year sentence in prison for insulting a foreign head of state (to strike someone with a shoe is considered a grave insult in many Arab cultures).

Al-Zaidi got a gift today, an early release from jail, after serving just nine months of his sentence. And being a journalist, it's no surprise that al-Zaidi is talking.

He claims that he was tortured while in prison and fears that now he's out US intelligence forces will hunt him down, a fear that he's taking so seriously that al-Zaidi won't move into a house his employer, al-Baghdadia television in Baghdad, bought for him until he arranges for his own security detail.

Actually, the claims of torture are nothing new, soon after his arrest the New York Times, among other news sites, reported that al-Zaidi had apparently been beaten while in custody, and had even had a tooth knocked out. Al-Zaidi claimed that a confession/apology he made a few days after the event was due to this torture. In his impromptu press conference outside the prison gates, al-Zaidi said that he was regularly tortured by Iraqi officials, suffering beatings, electric shocks and exposure to extreme cold. Al-Zaidi has promised to name "senior Iraqi officials" he said were involved in his mistreatment.

After the shoe throw, al-Zaidi became a folk hero in many parts of the Mid East. He said that he threw his shoes to protest the American occupation of his country.
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