December 22, 2008, Baghdad, Iraq – The apology letter from the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush was written against his will after he was tortured in detention, his brother said Monday.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi was wrestled to the ground moments after throwing his shoes during a Dec. 14 news conference of Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The investigating judge in the case acknowledged last week that al-Zeidi was beaten around the face and eyes.
But the journalist’s brother Uday told The Associated Press that he visited Muntadhar in jail on Sunday and saw more-severe injuries, including a missing tooth and burns on his ears made by cigarettes.
Uday al-Zeidi said his brother intends to file suit related to the injuries, but did not have details on when it would be filed or who specifically it would name.
The prime minister’s office said last week that al-Zeidi had written a letter of apology and asked al-Maliki to recommend a pardon.
Uday al-Zeidi said his brother told him the letter was written against his will because of torture during detention that included being doused with cold water while naked.
“He told me that he has no regret because of what he did and that he would do it again,” Uday said by telephone.
“The thing that makes you cry and laugh at the same time is that when the prime minister said that that my brother was not tortured and will not be tortured, he was under severe torture by security authorities,” Uday said.
Iraqi authorities could not immediately be reached Monday for comment on Uday al-Zeidi’s allegations.
‘A person provoked him to commit this act’
The prime minister, meanwhile, claimed that al-Zeidi said in the apology letter that a known terrorist had induced him to throw the shoes.
“He revealed … that a person provoked him to commit this act and that person is known to us for slitting throats,” al-Maliki said, according to the prime minister’s Web site. The alleged instigator was not named.
The premier also said that his government remains “committed to protecting the journalist in performing his professional duty” and guarantees him the right to practice his profession “on condition that he does not violate the dignity of others.”
Neither Bush nor al-Maliki have sought charges, but investigating judge Dhia al-Kinani said last week he does not have the legal option to drop the case.
Al-Zeidi is expected to face charges of insulting a foreign leader, for which a conviction could bring two years’ imprisonment. The trial is to begin Dec. 31, Uday al-Zeidi said. Court officials could not be reached for confirmation.
The Iraqi journalist’s shoe-throwing was repeatedly broadcast worldwide and he has become a potent symbol for opponents of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. Thousands of Iraqis have rallied to demand his release.