Middle East News
Shoe-thrower rejects Saddam defender, many other offers copy (2nd Roundup)
Dec 16, 2008, 20:15 GMT
Baghdad - Montazer al-Zaidi, the TV reporter who threw his shoes at US President George W Bush, is so flooded with offers by lawyers who want to defend him that he can afford to be choosy.
On 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 on 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 on 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 December 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 on Tuesday, al-Zaidi's brother told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that the family fears the reporter is now being mistreated by police.
'We don't know where he is,' Oudai al-Zaidi told dpa by telephone. 'We fear that he might be mistreated after seeing footage of the guards taking him on TV.'
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 on 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.
In other events in Iraq, a suicide car bomber killed six people and wounded eight when he blew up himself and his vehicle beside an army patrol in Diyala province, a security source said.
The attack was in al-Saadiya district in Baquba, 60 kilometres north of Baghdad. Four out of the six dead were soldiers.
Also in al-Saadiya, a bomb ripped through a police patrol killing a policeman and a civilian, and injuring eight people including three policemen, a police source told VOI.
Earlier, unknown gunmen shot and killed an Awakening Councils leader outside a mosque in Baquba, VOI reported. The Awakening Councils are Sunni tribesmen who work with US forces to counter al- Qaeda militants.
In central Baghdad an explosion struck a police patrol in al-Andalus square injuring six including three policemen, a police source told VOI.
Also on Tuesday, Iraq's Minister of Science and Technology, Raid Fahmi, escaped an assassination attempt when a bomb planted in a car exploded near his convoy in al-Qarada district in central Baghdad, a security source told dpa.
Moreover, US forces transferred the last 10 Iraqi female detainees to Iraqi's local authorities, according to a statement by the US forces on Tuesday. Some 15,800 Iraqis are held in US-run prisons. The number had decreased sharply from the 26,000 prisoners who were being detained at the end of 2007.