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September 16, 2009

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Freed Iraqi shoe hurler says he was tortured

THE Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former United States President George W. Bush was released yesterday after nine months in prison, and he said Iraqi security forces tortured him with beatings, whippings and electric shocks after his arrest.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi, whose stunning act of protest last December made him a hero around the Arab and Muslim worlds, said he now feared for his life and believed that US intelligence agents would chase after him.

"These fearsome services, the US intelligence services and its affiliated services, will spare no efforts to track me as an insurgent revolutionary ... in a bid to kill me," he told a news conference at the TV station where he works.

"And here I want to warn all my relatives and people close to me that these services will use all means to trap and try to kill and liquidate me either physically, socially or professionally," he said, wearing a scarf in the colors of the Iraqi flag draped around his neck.

The 30-year-old reporter's act of protest deeply embarrassed Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who was standing beside Bush at a December 14 news conference when al-Zeidi suddenly shot up from his chair and hurled his shoes toward the podium.

Bush, who was on his final visit to Iraq as president, was unhurt but had to duck twice to avoid being hit.

Al-Zeidi was wrestled to the ground by journalists and al-Maliki's security men.

The reporter said yesterday that he was abused immediately after his arrest and the following day. He said he was beaten with iron bars, whipped with cords and was electrocuted in the backyard of the building in the Green Zone where the news conference was held in Baghdad.

"In the morning, I was left in the cold weather after they splashed me with water."

He promised to reveal the names of senior officials in the Iraqi government and army who mistreated him.

An unrepentant al-Zeidi explained that his actions were motivated by the US occupation and said that while he is now free, his country is still "held captive."

"Simply put, what incited me toward confrontation is the oppression that fell upon my people and how the occupation wanted to humiliate my homeland by placing it under its boots," he said.


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