December 22, 2008
Iraqi Journalist Who Threw Shoes at Bush Was Tortured in Jail, His Brother Says
By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS
BAGHDAD — The television reporter who threw his shoes at President Bush was burned by a cigarette in the hours after his arrest on Dec. 14 and was beaten so badly by Iraqi security personnel that one of his teeth was knocked out, the reporter’s brother said Sunday after a visit to the jail.
The reporter, Muntader al-Zaidi, 29, has been jailed since hurling his shoes at Mr. Bush during a news conference here last week. Mr. Zaidi has not been formally charged, but he faces up to seven years in prison if convicted of the crime of aggression against a foreign leader during an official visit.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki did not return phone calls seeking comment on Sunday about the allegations, but the Maliki government previously denied that Mr. Zaidi had been mistreated while in custody.
It was Mr. Maliki’s security detail that detained Mr. Zaidi after he hurled his shoes. Mr. Zaidi was seen being beaten before he was pulled from the room where the news conference by Mr. Bush and Mr. Maliki was held.
On Sunday before the torture allegations were made public, Mr. Maliki said that he had received a letter from Mr. Zaidi saying that a terrorist had persuaded him to throw the shoes.
“A person urged him to commit this act, and this person is known to us as a person who beheads people,” Mr. Maliki said, without divulging the person’s name.
Mr. Zaidi’s family has maintained that he was acting out of his own frustration with the American invasion.
The visit by one of Mr. Zaidi’s brothers was the first by either a relative or a lawyer that the reporter had been allowed since being jailed. He has not been seen publicly since his arrest.
During an interview broadcast Sunday on Al Baghdadia, the Cairo-based satellite television network for which Mr. Zaidi works, his brother Uday, 33, said that Mr. Zaidi had been stripped to his underwear before being placed in a cell and tortured during the 24-hour period after his arrest.
“He told me he was sleeping on the floor of the cell when a very large man came in and dumped cold water on him and began hitting him with a thick cable,” Uday al-Zaidi said in the TV interview.
He said his brother had told him that he was brutally beaten by several men and burned on his right ear by a cigarette. Uday al-Zaidi said that on Sunday his brother had bruises on his face, stitches on the bridge of his nose and swelling in his legs, arms and hands.
His jailers had periodically demanded that he state in a videotaped confession that he had been ordered to commit the act by enemies of the prime minister, Uday al-Zaidi said his brother had told him.
Uday al-Zaidi said his brother had said: “After the torture and the cold-water shower, I told them to bring me a blank sheet of paper and I would sign it, and they could write whatever they wanted. I am ready to say I am a terrorist or whatever you want.”
But Muntader al-Zaidi told his brother that the men had stopped beating him and did not force him to write or sign anything. The journalist said that a letter to the prime minister written by him from jail expressing regret for the attack had not been coerced, his brother said. It was unclear if this was the same letter Mr. Maliki referred to.
Uday al-Zaidi said his brother told him that he had bought the shoes — used — at a market in Cairo.
For THIS we liberated Iraq? How many Americans and Iraqis and "coalition troops" have died so that this great democracy can flourish?