12/16/2008, 00.00
IRAQ
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Man who threw shoes at Bush hailed hero

Demonstrations in support of journalist flood Sadr City, Basra, Najaf. Libyans and Palestinians also voice their support. In the past he had been kidnapped by a group suspected of links to al Qaeda. He is also well known as an exhibitionist.

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Muntadar al-Zeidi, the journalist who threw his shoes at President George W.Bush is being acclaimed a hero by many Iraqis and throughout Middle East nations.

Yesterday thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Sadr City, Basra and Najaf demanding his release, after he was stooped and arrested following his outburst during a press conference by the US President and Premier al Maliki.

The association of Iraqi journalists has described the journalist’s behaviour as “totally unprofessional”; the television network that employs him, al-Baghdadiya, has instead defended him saying he merely exercised his right to freedom of expression, one of the values that Americans came to Iraq to fight for.  A Libyan organisation – led by Muhammar Gheddafi’s daughter - has awarded him a prize for courage. Palestinians and Saudis have also applauded his gesture.

Muntadar al-Zeidi is a 28 year-old Shiite, who graduated in 2005 from Baghdad University with a degree in journalism. In November of 2007, he was kidnapped for 3 days by a group suspected of having links to al Qaeda. His employer claims that no ransom was paid for his release.  In January 2008 he was also stopped by American soldiers, who released him the next day with an official apology.

According to Muntadar al-Zeidi’s family he detests both the US presence in Iraq and Iranian influence in the nation.   Many Iraqi’s feel that the US and Iran are fighting their war out on Iraqi soil.

Throwing his shoes at Bush the journalist 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!”.

According to his colleagues Muntadar al-Zeidi’s actions were also motivated by his exhibitionist character.

In the last year there has been a drastic reduction in violence throughout Iraq, even though attacks and conflicts continue, particularly in the North.

 

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