Muntadar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush of the US during a Baghdad press conference last week, spent his first days behind bars believing his family and colleagues would shun him, the man’s brother said on Monday.
Those guarding the 29-year-old journalist at a detention centre in Baghdad’s high security Green Zone forced him to watch a television channel run by Sunni extremists loyal to Saddam Hussein. They told him it was the only outlet in the world applauding his act, the journalist’s brother, Oday al-Zaidi, said on Friday after being allowed to visit him on Sunday.
“They told him: ‘Your tribe and your family reject you’,” Oday al-Zaidi said. Pointing towards the television set tuned to the Al-Raee channel, the guards added: “This is the only channel that supports you.”
In fact, al Baghdadia TV, his employer, his relatives and people across the Middle East have praised him.
Oday al-Zaidi said his brother was gaunt, devastated and bruised – but unrepentant.
His brother had told him: “If I had the same opportunity again, I would throw my shoes [at President Bush].”
Oday al-Zaidi said his brother claimed the guards had beaten him with a metal pipe after the incident.
He had a bruised eye, was missing an upper canine tooth and had cigarette burn marks on the back of his ears.
“I didn’t recognise him when I first saw him,” Oday al-Zaidi said.
The judge handling his case, Dhia al-Kinani, said last week that Muntadar al-Zaidi appeared to have been tortured while in custody. The judge has opened an investigation into his treatment.
Oday al-Zaidi said that the judge had arranged for him to visit his brother òn condition that their relatives stop giving so many interviews about the case.
Oday al-Zaidi said that he had decided to disregard the request after discovering that his brother had been tortured.
The shoe-throwing incident has also stalled business in Iraq’s parliament.
Legislators this week postponed a hearing about a security agreement with the UK because emotions are still running high after a session last week erupted into a heated debate about the attack on Mr Bush.
Oday al-Zaidi said his brother had long loathed the US.
He was enraged by an incident last year during which an American soldier was accused of using the Koran for target practice at a shooting range.
Oday al-Zaidi said his brother had not discussed his plan with relatives prior to the press conference.
During their meeting on Sunday afternoon, Muntadar al-Zaidi told his brother that he had contemplated throwing a pen at Mr Bush and spitting on him, but ultimately decided to use his shoes to make a political statement.
While in custody, the journalist had not been allowed to wear shoes, Oday al-Zaidi added.
His relatives have sent him a pair of flip-flops.
Additional reporting by Qais Mizher.
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