I was tortured, says Iraqi journalist jailed for hurling shoes at George Bush as he is freed to a hero's welcome
By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 7:37 PM on 15th September 2009
An Iraqi journalist who gained worldwide fame after hurling his shoes at George W. Bush today claimed he had been tortured while in prison.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi was freed to a hero's welcome after spending nine months behind bars for his extraordinary attack on the former US president.
Hundreds of people congregated to meet him, a phalanx of gun-toting men fired volleys into the air while women cried out and broke into traditional Iraqi dances.
Relief: Muntadhar al-Zeidi (centre) embraces his sister as he arrives at the offices of his employer Baghdadiyah TV after his release
Freed: Muntadhar al-Zeidi was jailed after throwing his shoes at George Bush during a press conference last December
Supporters around the world have offered him everything from a harem to a four-bedroom house while one Saudi man reportedly offered to pay $10 million for one of the shoes.
His editor Abdul Hamid al-Saij also revealed women were lining up with marriage offers.
'One Iraqi who lived in Morocco called to offer to send his daughter to be Muntadhar's wife,' he said.
'After the event, we had callers from Palestine and many women asking to marry him, but we didn't take their names.
'Many of their reactions were emotional. We will see what happens when he is freed.'
After leaving prison this morning, al-Zeidi was driven to the television station where he works, a scarf in the colours of the Iraqi flag draped around his neck.
Rather than being repentant, the outspoken television journalist immediately launched a fresh tirade against the States.
He claimed Iraqi police had subjected him to beatings, whippings and electric shocks during his first few days in custody and that he now feared for his life.
But despite all this al-Zeidi, 30, claims he has no regrets about his actions, stating while he was free his country was still captive because of the US occupation.
'Simply put, what incited me toward confrontation is the oppression that fell upon my people and how the occupation wanted to humiliate my homeland by placing it under its boots,' he said.
Celebration: Relatives gather to await al-Zeidi's arrival at his home in Baghdad
Durgham, the brother of jailed Iraqi television journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi (poster), waits with family members for the release of his brother in central Baghdad
Welcoming committe: Al-Zaidi is surrounded by gun-toting supporters as he arrives at the television station where he works
'These fearsome services, the US intelligence services and its affiliated services, will spare no efforts to track me as an insurgent revolutionary ... in a bid to kill me.
'And here I want to warn all my relatives and people close to me that these services will use all means to trap and try to kill and liquidate me either physically, socially or professionally.'
Al-Zeidi was at a news conference on December 14 last year when he abruptly leapt from his chair and hurled his shoes towards Bush.
'This is your farewell kiss, you dog!' he shouted at Bush in Arabic as he threw the footwear.
'This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.'
Bush was unhurt but was forced to duck twice to avoid being hit and his undignified actions got wall-to-wall coverage on for days.
Al-Zeidi, meanwhile, was bundled to the ground by security men and other journalists.
He was sentenced to three years in jail for his actions - later reduced to a year's term. Last month it was confirmed he would be released on the grounds of good behaviour.
The release has been an eagerly anticipated event with lavish preparations at his Baghdad home.
His relatives have been preparing for days to welcome him, hanging balloons and posters of the reporter.
VIP treatment: A housekeeper dusts al-Zeidi's desk and chair ahead of his arrival
Several children from the family gathered outside the home, carrying posters of al-Zeidi that said: 'Release the man who restored national unity.'
There were also about a dozen sheep and a butcher standing by to slaughter some of them upon al-Zeidi's return in a traditional practice on celebratory occasions.
His brother Uday was waiting with other relatives for his release.
'I congratulate the Iraqi people and the Muslim world and all free men across the world on the release of Muntadhar,' Uday told a crowd of dozens of journalists.
'Every time Bush turns a new page in his life he will find Muntadhar's shoes waiting for him.'
He said al-Zeidi would travel to Greece later this week for medical checkups and because he had concerns about his safety.
Al-Zeidi's protest stirred millions across the Arab world who have been captivated and angered by images of destruction and grieving since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Shocked: Footage of Muntadhar al-Zeidi's actions were replayed millions of times around the world
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1213593/Iraqi-reporter-hurled-shoes-George-Bush-receives-heros-welcome-released-prison.html#ixzz0REu5DWOx