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Page last updated at 18:54 GMT, Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Shoe thrower 'beaten in custody'

Shoes thrown at George Bush
Muntadar al-Zaidi was wrestled to the ground and dragged away

The brother of the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at US President George W Bush has said that the reporter has been beaten in custody.

Muntadar al-Zaidi has allegedly suffered a broken arm, broken ribs and internal bleeding, his older brother, Dargham, told the BBC.

Mr Zaidi threw his shoes at Mr Bush at a news conference, calling him "a dog".

A spokesperson for the Iraqi military says the journalist is in good health and said the allegations were untrue.

It is unclear whether the reporter may have been injured when he was wrestled to the floor at the news conference, or at a later point.

The head of Iraq's journalists' union has asked the government for clemency towards the journalist who is still in custody.

A spokesman for Iraq's High Judicial Council said that Mr Zaidi, accompanied by defence and prosecution lawyers, had been brought before the investigating judge, Reuters news agency reported.

Abdul Satar Birqadr said Mr Zaidi had been charged with aggression against a president.

"He admits the action he carried out," the news agency quoted Mr Birqadr as saying.

Earlier, Dargham al-Zaidi told the BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Baghdad he believed his brother had been taken to a US military hospital in the Iraqi capital.

Hero figure

A second day of rallies in support of Mr Zaidi were held across Iraq, calling for his release.

Meanwhile, offers to buy the shoes he threw are being made around the Arab world, reports say.

Mr Zaidi told our correspondent that despite offers from many lawyers his brother has not been given access to a legal representative since being arrested by forces under the command of Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser.

We hope the government and judiciary consider his release because he has a family and he is still young
Mouyyad al-Lami, Iraqi journalists' union

The Iraqi authorities have said the 28-year-old will be prosecuted under Iraqi law.

Iraqi lawyers had earlier speculated that the charges could include insulting a foreign leader and the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Maliki, who was standing next to President Bush during the incident.

The offence carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail.

Our correspondent says that the previously little-known journalist from the private Cairo-based al-Baghdadia TV has become a hero to many, not just in Iraq but across the Arab world, for what many saw as a fitting send-off for a deeply unpopular US president.

As he flung the shoes, Mr Zaidi shouted: "This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog."

Dargham al-Zaidi told the BBC that his brother deliberately bought Iraqi-made shoes, which were dark brown with laces. They were bought from a shop on al-Khyam street, a well-known shopping street in central Baghdad.

However, not everyone in Iraq has been supportive of the journalist's action.

Speaking earlier in Baghdad, Mouyyad al-Lami described Mr Zaidi's action as "strange and unprofessional", but urged Mr Maliki to show compassion.

"Even if he has made a mistake, the government and the judiciary are broad-minded and we hope they consider his release because he has a family and he is still young," he told the Associated Press news agency.

"We hope this case ends before going to court."

Abducted by insurgents

The shoes themselves are said to have attracted bids from around the Arab world.

According to unconfirmed newspaper reports, the former coach of the Iraqi national football team, Adnan Hamad, has offered $100,000 (65,000) for the shoes, while a Saudi citizen has apparently offered $10m (6.5m).

Muntadar al-Zaidi (file image)
Mr Zaidi said his actions were for Iraqi widows and orphans
The daughter of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Aicha, said her charity would honour the reporter with a medal of courage, saying his action was a "victory for human rights".

The charity called on the media to support Mr Zaidi and put pressure on the Iraqi government to free him.

Mr Zaidi, who lives in Baghdad, has worked for al-Baghdadia for three years.

Muzhir al-Khafaji, programming director for the channel, described him as a "proud Arab and an open-minded man".

He said that Mr Zaidi was a graduate of communications from Baghdad University.

"He has no ties with the former regime. His family was arrested under Saddam's regime," he said.

Mr Zaidi has previously been abducted by insurgents and held twice for questioning by US forces in Iraq.

In November 2007 he was kidnapped by a gang on his way to work in central Baghdad and released three days later without a ransom.

He said at the time that the kidnappers had beaten him until he lost consciousness, and used his necktie to blindfold him.

Mr Zaidi never learned the identity of his kidnappers, who questioned him about his work before letting him go.

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