Monday, December 22, 2008

Iraqi shoe thrower vows never to apologize to Bush, family says

RINF.COM, Sunday, Dec 21, 2008

Shoe-throwing journalist Muntather Zaidi told his family he would never apologize to President Bush for hurling his footwear at the American leader, even if he is chopped into pieces, his brother said after visiting him for the first time Sunday.

Muntather has become an unlikely hero to America’s critics for lobbing his shoes at Bush a week ago during the president’s surprise trip to Baghdad. His actions have been praised by religious leaders, ordinary people and governments hostile to the United States and even prompted marriage offers.

Muntather, from the Cairo-based satellite channel Baghdadiya, has been locked away and kept out of the public eye since last Sunday. The Iraqi government announced earlier in the week that Muntather had written to Prime Minister Nouri Maliki requesting forgiveness for attacking Bush. But Muntather’s brother Uday challenged the government’s assertions after the family’s first visit with the shoe-thrower.

” ‘Muntather said that he was forced to apologize to Maliki and he will never, never apologize to Bush even if they cut him into small pieces,’ ” Uday told The Times after his visit with his brother.

Uday said his brother had lost a tooth and his nose had required stitches because of the beatings he had suffered in custody.

“There were multiple bruises all over his body. There were cigarette burns behind his ears. He was beaten with metal rods. His eyes were swollen. They have assigned two medical doctors … to provide him with treatment in order to hide the evidence of torture,” Uday said

A judge investigating the case told the Associated Press on Friday that Muntather showed signs of having been beaten in custody.

According to his brother, Muntather had no regrets for attempting to hit Bush at a joint press conference with Maliki. He said Muntather told him: ” ‘I do not regret what I did. If I went back in time, I would do the same thing.’ ”

Uday said his brother wanted the world to know that he threw the shoe not for money, fame or an ulterior motive and had been ready to die. ” ‘I thought I was going to be shot immediately as I saw the bodyguards with the guns standing there, but I really did not care. I was prepared for anything because I did this for my country,’ ” Uday said his brother told him.

Meeting with Iraqi reporters on Saturday, Maliki criticized Muntather for giving the world a “bad image” of Iraq and harming the reputation of its journalists. Even so, Maliki said he made sure the journalist had a pillow, clean sheets and clothing his first night in captivity. He vowed the courts would decide Muntather’s fate. Before speaking, he listened to Iraqi reporters condemn Muntather’s behavior.

– Caesar Ahmed and Ned Parker in Baghdad

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