USD 10mn offered for shoe thrown at Bush

BAGHDAD -- A Saudi businessman has offered USD 10mn for one of the shoes thrown by an Iraqi journalist at U.S. President George Bush in Baghdad.

The reporter prepares to throw (Beta)
The reporter prepares to throw (Beta)

During a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nour Maliki on Sunday, Muntazer al-Zaidi, a correspondent for the Cairo-based al-Baghdadiya TV channel, hurled his shoes at the U.S. president, shouting in Arabic, "This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, dog." He was then overpowered by security personnel and taken away.

In Arabic culture showing the soles of shoes is considered a serious insult. Neither of the shoes, which Bush later told journalists were "a size 10," hit their target.

What happened to the footwear is unclear, although they are thought to have been seized as evidence by the Iraqi security service, or perhaps taken as a souvenir by a member of the Bush administration.

The Iraqi prime minister's press secretary, Yassin Majid, said on Tuesday that al-Zaidi could face up to 7 1/2 years in prison for assaulting the leader of a foreign country.

Iran's Press TV reported that Iraqi forces were holding al-Zaidi in a military compound in central Baghdad. His brother, Durgham, has said that al-Zaidi's arm and ribs had been broken.

Over 100 lawyers, including Saddam Hussein's former lawyer and the Arab Lawyers Union, have volunteered to defend the Iraqi journalist. The former Iraqi leader was hanged on December 30, 2006.

Arabs around the world have been united in their approval and support for al-Zaidi and a number of Middle Eastern channels showed nonstop footage on Monday of the shoe-throwing incident.

Around 1,000 Iraqis from the Al-Sadr and Iraqi National Movement are reported to have gathered in the center of Baghdad demanding the release of al-Zaidi holding banners reading "Free the hero of the Iraqi people" and "Arresting al-Zaidi is the first result of our agreement with the U.S."