U.S. troops confront Iraqis rallying in favor of shoe-thrower

McClatchy NewspapersDecember 17, 2008 

A protest in Fallujah Wednesday for the release of journalist Muntathar al Zaidi.

JAMAL NAJI / MCT

BAGHDAD — Following an appearance before an Iraqi judge Wednesday, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush will face charges of attacking a head of state, a court spokesman said.

However, Muntathar al Zaidi, a correspondent for the Baghdadiya television station, didn't appear in court, according to his older brother, Audai al Zaidi. Expecting his brother to appear in court, he instead encountered the judge, who told him he'd taken a statement from Muntathar al Zaidi at the location of his custody, which the judge didn't reveal.

Muntathar al Zaidi will face trial after the judge's investigation finished. The judge's spokesman, Abdul Sattar Beroqdar, didn't give a timeline for the process.

Iraqis on the street continue to show support for Zaidi, who disrupted a news conference Sunday in Baghdad by Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki.

University students rallied for Zaidi in Fallujah on Wednesday, drawing the attention of U.S. forces.

Students raised their shoes and threw rocks at American soldiers, who reportedly opened fire above the crowd. Protesters said that indirect fire wounded one student, Zaid Salih. U.S. forces haven't confirmed the account.

"We demonstrated to express our support for Muntathar al Zaidi, but we were surprised with the entrance of the U.S. military," said Ahmed Ismail, one of the protesters. "Unconsciously, we raised our shoes expressing our support for al Zaidi, but they attacked us."

Dr. Thair al Jomaili treated Salih at a hospital and said that he was fine. The doctor said that the bullet went through one of Salih's feet.

Zaidi's family remains proud of him for challenging Bush, his older brother said.

"The feelings of the family are mixed between happiness and sadness," Audai al Zaidi said. "Happy with what our brother did and sad because of what happened with him after that."

Audai al Zaidi said his brother often had expressed anger about American leaders when he saw Iraqis suffering. He's covered conflicts in Baghdad's Shiite Muslim slum of Sadr City, which shaped some of his views.

When Muntathar al Zaidi saw "orphans, widows or any Iraqi tragedy, he always wished to see any American officials, (former Defense Secretary Donald H.) Rumsfeld or Condoleezza Rice, to spit on their faces or hit them with his shoe," Audai al Zaidi said.

"He didn't expect that he would find Bush in front of his face."

(Hammoudi and Hussein are McClatchy special correspondents in Baghdad. Jamal Naji, a special correspondent in Fallujah, contributed to this article.)

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McClatchy Newspapers 2008

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