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September 14, 2009

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Shoe-throwing reporter due to be freed

MUNTADHAR al-Zeidi, the Iraqi reporter who became famous worldwide when he threw his shoes at then American President George W. Bush, is likely to get a hero's welcome if he is freed from jail today, as expected.

In December 2008 Zeidi's actions toward Bush during the president's farewell visit to Baghdad captured many Iraqis' feelings of resentment following more than six years of bloodshed triggered by the United States-led invasion in 2003.

Condemned by the Iraqi government for his "barbaric act" during the news conference Bush held with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Zeidi was sentenced to three years in jail for assaulting a visiting head of state. The jail term was later reduced, and Zeidi's family expects his release today.

Zeidi's lawyer Dhiaa al-Saadi said he had no word yet on when Zeidi would be freed.

Millions of people across the world have watched Zeidi hurl his shoes at Bush and call the man who started the war in Iraq a "dog," both great insults in the Middle East.

Zeidi's arrest triggered demonstrations in Baghdad and his brother said supporters had already posted banners ahead of his release. He expects a crowd at the Baghdad air base where Zeidi is due to be freed.

Zeidi, working for Cairo-based al-Baghdadiya television, has received offers of support from around the world.

Abdul Hamid al-Saih, a senior official at Baghdadiya, said the channel had bought him a home in Baghdad. His salary has been paid throughout the jail term. He has also been offered jobs with other Arabic media.


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