Organisation calls for the release of Iraqi shoe-thrower

December 18th, 2008 - 4:56 am ICT by IANS  

Baghdad, Dec 18 (DPA) The press freedom organisation, Reporters Without Borders, called Wednesday for the release of Montazer al-Zaidi, the TV reporter who threw his shoes at US President George W. Bush during a press conference in Baghdad Sunday.”We obviously regret that the journalist used this method of protest against the politics of the American president,” the organisation said.

“But for humanitarian reasons and to ease tension, we call for the release of Montazer al-Zaidi who has been held by the Iraqi authorities,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.

Al-Zaidi, who has worked for the Cairo-based al-Baghdadiya since 2005, has been detained by the Iraqi government since throwing his shoes at Bush Sunday at a press conference.

Bush, who was standing next to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, reacted quickly and dodged both shoes.

“While we do not approve of this kind of behavior as a means of expressing an opinion or convictions, the relaxed way in which George W. Bush spoke about the incident afterwards, should give the Iraqi authorities all the more reason to show leniency,” the organisation concluded.

The White House declared Tuesday that Bush “harbours no hard feelings” over the shoe assault.

“The president just thinks that - it was just a shoe, people express themselves in lots of different ways,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

The journalist faces seven to 10 years behind bars if found guilty on charges of “aggression against a president”, according to the official spokesman for the higher judicial council, Abdel Sattar al-Bairaqdar.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad hundreds of Iraqis demonstrated in the streets calling for the release of al-Zaidi. They chanted slogans: “Al-Zaidi the hero of Iraq, the lion of Mesopotamia.”

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