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Iraqi judge: Shoe-tossing reporter was beaten

The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush was beaten after the incident and had bruises on his face and around his eyes, a judge said Friday.
Image: Muntadar al-Zeidi
Iraqi TV reporter Muntadhar al-ZeidiAP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush was beaten after the incident and had bruises on his face and around his eyes, a judge said Friday.

Judge Dhia al-Kinani, the magistrate investigating the incident, said the court has filed a complaint on behalf of journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi, and added that court officials "will watch the footage to identify those who have beaten him."

Al-Zeidi was wrestled to the ground after throwing his shoes during a Sunday news conference by Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and there had been conflicting claims on his condition since then. One of his brothers claimed he was harshly beaten, but another said he seemed to be in good condition.

Al-Zeidi remained in custody and was expected to eventually face charges of insulting a foreign leader.

"He was beaten and we filed a case for that," Judge Dhia al-Kinani told The Associated Press. "Al-Zeidi did not raise a complaint and he can drop this case if he wants to."

Request for a pardon
Al-Kinani also confirmed that the journalist had written a letter of apology to al-Maliki. Under the Iraqi constitution, the president can grant pardons that are requested by the prime minister.

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.

The judge said the 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.

Overblown attention?
Al-Zeidi's action was broadcast repeatedly on television stations around the world. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack suggested that worldwide attention to the shoe-tossing was overblown.

"We would hope that the fact of a U.S. president standing next to a freely elected prime minister of Iraq who just happens to be Shia, who is governing in a multi-confessional, multiethnic democracy in the heart of the Middle East, is not overshadowed by one incident like this," McCormack told reporters in Washington.

McCormack said he believed that in the coming years "the fact of the president making that visit under those circumstances will probably overshadow any memory of this particular gentleman and what he did."

'Shoe Intifada'
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," said Jannati.

Also Friday, the head of a large West Bank family said it is willing to offer 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.

More on: Muntadhar al-Zeidi | Nouri al-Maliki