Journalists’ body seeks Iraqi reporter’s release


Baghdad : Reporters Without Borders, an international journalists’ organisation, has called for the release of Montazer al-Zaidi, the TV reporter who threw his shoes at US President George W. Bush during a press conference in Baghdad last Sunday.

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“We obviously regret that the journalist used this method of protest against the politics of the American president,” the organisation said in a statement Wednesday.

“But for humanitarian reasons and to ease tension, we call for the release of Montazer al-Zaidi who has been held by the Iraqi authorities,” it said.

Al-Zaidi, who has worked for the Cairo-based al-Baghdadiya since 2005, has been detained by the Iraqi government since the incident Sunday.

Bush, who was standing next to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in the press conference, reacted quickly and dodged both shoes.

“While we do not approve of this kind of behaviour as a means of expressing an opinion or convictions, the relaxed way in which George W. Bush spoke about the incident afterwards, should give the Iraqi authorities all the more reason to show leniency,” the organisation added.

On Tuesday, the White House declared that Bush “harbours no hard feelings” over the shoe assault.

“The president just thinks that – it was just a shoe, people express themselves in lots of different ways,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

The journalist faces seven to 10 years behind bars if found guilty on charges of “aggression against a president,” according to the official spokesman for Iraq’s higher judicial council, Abdel Sattar al-Bairaqdar.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad hundreds of Iraqis demonstrated in the streets Wednesday calling for the release of al-Zaidi. They chanted slogans that said: “Al-Zaidi, the hero of Iraq, the lion of Mesopotamia.”