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Page last updated at 09:59 GMT, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 10:59 UK

Iraq shoe thrower freed from jail

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Muntadar al-Zaidi shouted 'this is the end' when he threw the shoes at President Bush

The Iraqi man who threw his shoes at former US President George W Bush has been released from custody after nine months in a Baghdad jail.

Muntadar al-Zaidi's act of protest last December made him a hero in large parts of the Arab world and beyond.

Zaidi was convicted of assaulting a foreign leader and was sentenced to three years in jail - later reduced to 12 months after an appeal.

He said he was tortured by government officials while he was imprisoned.

The BBC's Hugh Sykes, in Baghdad, says although Zaidi became a hero to many, large numbers of Iraqis think his actions were unforgivably rude.

'Goodbye kiss'

Zaidi's family has been preparing to hold a party for him, saying he has received offers of money, jobs and even marriage from sympathisers across the Arab world.

MUNTADAR AL-ZAIDI
Muntadar al-Zaidi throwing a shoe
Worked for Egypt-based broadcaster since 2005
Was kidnapped by gunmen while reporting in Baghdad in 2007
Detained by US troops for a night in 2008, his brother says, before they freed him and apologised

His family claims he was even offered a golden horse by the Emir of Qatar.

His action was also celebrated in internet games and on T-shirts.

He was meant to be released on Monday, but red-tape meant he had to spend another day in jail.

When news of his release filtered through to his family's home in Baghdad, there was an eruption of celebration with women dancing and singing.

His brother, Uday, told a crowd of journalists: "Every time Bush turns a new page in his life he will find Muntadar's shoes waiting for him."

He said Zaidi still feared for his life and would fly to Greece for medical check-ups.

His family had previously said the reporter was beaten while in prison, suffering a broken arm, broken ribs and internal bleeding. Those allegations have been rejected by the Iraqi military.

The previously little-known journalist worked for the private Cairo-based al-Baghdadia TV.

As he flung the shoes, Zaidi shouted: "This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog. This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."

Mr Bush had been giving a joint news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and the incident was seen as hugely embarrassing for both men.

But in an interview afterwards, Mr Bush insisted he did not harbour any ill feeling about it.

"It was amusing - I've seen a lot of weird things during my presidency, and this may rank up there as one of the weirdest," he said.



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