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Page last updated at 16:58 GMT, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 17:58 UK

Iraqi shoe thrower welcomed home

The Iraqi journalist who threw a pair of shoes at President Bush at a news conference in Baghdad says he was tortured in jail.

Muntadar al-Zaidi was released on Tuesday after serving nine months. The BBC's Hugh Sykes in Baghdad describes the day's unfolding events.

Muntadar al-Zaidi says he was tortured while in jail
Muntadar al-Zaidi says he was tortured while in jail

After leaving prison, Muntadar al-Zaidi went straight to al Baghdadiya - the TV station he was working for at the news conference where he threw the shoes.

Addressing his own news conference, he said he had been tortured: "At the very moment that the Prime Minister Mr al-Maliki was on TV saying he wouldn't rest until he was sure I was sleeping on a comfortable bed, I was being hideously tortured.

"I was being given electric shocks, and being hit with cables and steel roods... I was left handcuffed and immersed in water until dawn in cold weather. I demand that Mr al-Maliki apologise for concealing the truth."

An advisor to the prime minister told the BBC that the torture allegation should be investigated.

When I saw the war criminal Bush, I wanted to show my resentment - after six years of occupation, this killer came to my country smiling and bragging about victory
Muntadar al-Zaidi

And a spokesman for the ministry of human rights told us they do not believe he was tortured in the jail where he spent the past nine months, as it is a "detention centre with acceptable human rights standards".

They concluded that, if he was tortured, it must have happened soon after he was arrested and before his trial.

At his news conference, Mr Zaidi offered an explanation for his shoe-throwing protest.

"I'm not a hero," he said, "but when I saw the war criminal Bush, I wanted to show my resentment - after six years of occupation, this killer came to my country smiling and bragging about victory."

He went on: "When I saw the pictures of the dead, it kept me awake at night."

He also addressed objections that journalists should throw questions at presidents, and not shoes: "If I gave the profession of journalism a bad name, I apologise," he said.

Emotional welcome

Arriving at the al Baghdadiya compound, a trumpeter and two drummers sounded a welcome for Mr Zaidi - and in his honour, three sheep were slaughtered live on his own channel.

Muntadar al-Zaidi with his uncle
Muntadar al-Zaidi received a warm welcome from his family

At his modest central Baghdad flat, his family prepared an exuberant and emotional welcome home.

They danced, they put up balloons and posters, and his young nephews and nieces practised a celebratory song - roughly translated as "Bush Bush listen well, we said goodbye with a pair of shoes".

On the open corridor outside his flat, another sheep waited patiently for its end - six more were assembled down in the street.

As the day - and the heat - wore on, the family handed out soft drinks to waiting reporters.

Non-Muslims (and the non-observant) accepted eagerly - but for the rest it is Ramadan, and a fast is a fast, even if it is 40C (104F) in the shade.

But Mr Zaidi never turned up. Reporters dispersed, the family went back inside, and the six sheep in the street were taken away - leaving the one animal upstairs alone there again with its bowl of water.

Not all Iraqis admire him - may thought his gesture was rude and unjustified.

According to Arab tradition, throwing shoes and calling the intended target a dog was a double insult.



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