Iraqis hail shoe-throwing journalist

Thousands of Iraqis have demonstrated in Baghdad in support of Muntadhar al-Zaidi, the news reporter being held in custody after throwing his shoes at President George W. Bush at a news conference.

In Sadr City, supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr burned American flags to protest against Bush and called for the release of al-Zaidi.

“Bush, Bush, listen well: Two shoes on your head,” the protesters chanted in unison.

In many parts of the Middle East, Arabs hailed the journalist as a hero and admired his offense as an appropriate send-off to the U.S. president.

“This is a farewell kiss, you dog,” al-Zaidi yelled in Arabic as he threw his shoes. “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.”

bush shoe protest

The Al-Baghdadia reporter was detained for what the Iraqi government on Monday said was a “barbaric and ignominious act” during a news conference the previous day.

According to CNN, he faced testing for alcohol and drugs to determine his state of mind. He was also interrogated about whether anybody paid him to protest during the press conference.

Al-Zaidi is a Shia Muslim in his late 20s who was abducted and by an unknown rebel group in November 2007 and held for more than two days.

An Iraqi lawyer told AFP that al-Zaidi risked a minimum of two years in prison if he is prosecuted for insulting a visiting head of state, but could face a 15-year term if he is charged with attempted murder.

In case you haven’t seen it yet… here’s the Bush shoe-throwing video.

Photo: CBC News