The Iraqi man who threw his shoes at former U.S. President George W. Bush last year, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, was freed from jail Tuesday, his brother told CNN.
Udey al-Zaidi confirmed the release of his brother, who was serving a one-year sentence. Under Iraqi law, a “conditional discharge” allows for the release of a prisoner after he serves three-quarters of his sentence, on good behavior. Al-Zaidi has been in jail since the December 14 news conference, during which he threw his shoes at Bush and called him a “dog” — two of the worst insults in the Middle East. Bush ducked to avoid the shoes and was not hurt. Al-Zaidi was sentenced to jail for “assaulting a foreign head of state on an official visit to Iraq.” The journalist’s family and supporters had waited for two days outside the Baghdad jail where he was held, initially hoping he would be freed on Monday, but procedural delay kept that from happening. He was originally serving a three-year sentence, but an appellate court in April reduced it to a single year. Watch more about Al-Zaidi’s release Al-Zaidi said he threw his shoes to protest the U.S. “occupation” of Iraq. As Bush listed the gains made in Iraq during the news conference, al-Zaidi said, he thought about the millions of civilians who had been killed, widowed or displaced. Many Iraqis called the presence of American troops in Iraq an occupation. Last week, Al-Zaidi’s family prepared for his release, plastering the walls of their modest Baghdad home with his posters.
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“We are happy, like any detainee’s family would be happy for the release of its son after the bitter time he spent in jail,” brother Dhirgham al-Zaidi said. He said the family had received many phone calls from supporters across the country who planned to travel to Baghdad and welcome al-Zaidi after his release.
Though many Iraqis hold Bush in low esteem, opinions were mixed in Iraq following the incident. Some viewed al-Zaidi as a hero, with thousands taking to the streets, calling for his release; others said his act went against Arab traditions of honoring guests. Al-Zaidi’s brothers said they had been offered many gifts and financial rewards, though they had rejected them.