Shoe-thrower reporter flooded with offers from defence lawyers (Lead)

December 17th, 2008 - 2:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Baghdad, Dec 17 (DPA) Montazer al-Zaidi, the Iraqi TV reporter who threw his shoes at US President George W. Bush, is flooded with offers by lawyers who want to defend him. Tuesday, al-Zaidi rejected an offer by Khalil al-Dulaimi, who defended the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein before his execution. He also turned down offers by various lawyers from across the Arab world.

Al-Zaidi, who has worked for the Cairo-based al-Baghdadiya since 2005, has been detained by the Iraqi government for throwing his shoes at Bush Sunday during a press conference as he shouted in Arabic: “This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog”.

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

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, in an interview with Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency.

The official said that al-Zaidi had admitted his action in front of a judge.

The outpouring of offerings by lawyers to defend him was triggered by remarks from al-Bairaqdar, who announced Tuesday that al-Zaidi wanted an Iraqi lawyer to defend him.

When al-Dulaimi came forward with his offer of defence and added that there were more than 200 other Arab and international lawyers offering to join the team, the journalist said no.

Though al-Dulaimi is an Iraqi lawyer, al-Zaidi refused his offer because al-Dulaimi had headed the team defending toppled Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, who was hanged on Dec 30, 2006.

According to VOI, Iraqi Bar Association chief Diyaa al-Saadi was named head of the lawyers team made up by Al-Baghdadiya channel to defend al-Zaidi.

Earlier Tuesday, al-Zaidi’s brother told DPA that the family fears the reporter is now being mistreated by police.

Later, al-Baghdadiya reported that the 29-year-old al-Zaidi told his brother by phone that he is in good health and that he needs a team of lawyers to defend him in front of the Iraqi Criminal court.

Oudai also turned down an invitation by the Venezuelan President to come and live in the Latin American country.

“We are grateful to President Hugo Chavez. However we are Iraqis, we live in Iraq,” Oudai said speaking on the behalf of his family.

Hundreds of Iraqis demonstrated Tuesday throughout the country demanding the release of al-Zaidi, whom they described as a “hero” and “a brave man”.

In Washington, the White House declared 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,” Perino said.

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