Page last updated at 19:04 GMT, Thursday, 10 September 2009 20:04 UK

Welcome awaits Iraq shoe thrower

Dargham al-Zaidi at family home in Baghdad 10.09.09
Dargham al-Zaidi is helping to prepare the family home for his brother's party

The Iraqi journalist jailed for hurling his shoes at former US President George W Bush is to be freed on Monday - to an uncertain future.

Muntadar al-Zaidi's release after nine months in prison will be celebrated by many across the Arab world to whom he has become a hero.

He is reported to have been offered money, lucrative jobs, marriages and even a career in politics.

His brother says an official boycott may stop Zaidi's return to journalism.

Zaidi, a reporter for al-Baghdadiya TV, shot to fame on 14 December 2008 when he hurled his footwear at Mr Bush during a televised news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

He called Mr Bush "a dog" and threw his shoes as a "farewell kiss" from Iraqis killed, orphaned or widowed since the US-led invasion.

Zaidi was jailed for three years for assault, but the sentence was reduced on appeal.

Outpouring of support

Although the incident embarrassed the Iraqi government, there was an outpouring of support for Zaidi - and his act of defiance - across many Arab countries.


Footage of the shoe hurling incident

Zaidi's brother, Dargham, says the attention lavished on the reporter has been amazing.

"We have had pledges of money, the Emir of Qatar promised a golden horse, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi (of Libya) said he would award him Libya's highest honour, other people said they would buy him a sports car," he said.

Dargham al-Zaidi said he believed that his brother might quit his work as a journalist "because he is sure that he will be turned away or boycotted by government officials".

"Rather, he told me he is interested in working in a humanitarian organisation or becoming an activist for women's and orphans' rights," he told AP news agency.

He added that Zaidi had declined offers to stand for several independent political parties.

Al-Baghdadiya TV - which has continued to pay Zaidi's salary during his time in jail - believes he will return to work there.

"As far as I know, from what he has told me - and I speak to him weekly - he will come back to work for al-Baghdadiya," said Abdul-Hamid al-Sayah, manager of the Cairo-based station.

"He is very attached to the station."

Mr Sayah said they planned to hold a press conference with Zaidi and a talkshow appearance where he would explain his actions.

Al-Baghdadiya colleague Mohammed Wadeh said some of the Arab world's best-known satellite TV stations had tried to recruit Zaidi as an anchorman, but "he refused them all".

Whatever the outcome, Zaidi's relatives were preparing a party at the family home in Baghdad where special posters of their "hero" were fixed to the walls ready for his release on Monday.

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