Published September 14, 2009
BAGHDAD – The expected release on Monday of the Iraqi television reporter jailed for throwing his shoes at former President George W. Bush was postponed, two of his brother said, citing delays in processing his paperwork.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi's family had gathered shortly after dawn outside an Iraqi army base in central Baghdad where he was expected to be released from prison.
After waiting more than five hours, his brother Dargham said he had received a phone call from al-Zeidi telling him he would not be released until Tuesday because of the delays.
Dargham was in tears as he spoke on the phone to his brother. Other family members cried when he broke the news to them.
Dargham and Uday, al-Zeidi's other brother, said they would stage a sit-in outside the base Tuesday until he is released, and they called for other Iraqis to join them.
"We will set up a tent right here on this spot where we will stage a sit-in and we will cut off the road too until they release him," said Uday.
Al-Zeidi's act of protest last December made the little-known TV reporter an instant hero across the Arab and Muslim worlds where Bush is extremely unpopular.
He hurled his shoes at Bush as the American president stood next to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at a Baghdad news conference — an act of protest that resonated throughout the region because even showing the soles of one's shoes to someone is highly disrespectful.
Bush, who was unhurt, ducked as the shoes flew past his head. Al-Zeidi was wrestled to the ground by journalists and al-Maliki's security men.
"This is your farewell kiss, you dog!" al-Zeidi shouted at Bush as he hurled the shoes at him. "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq," he continued.
Bush later joked the shoes appeared to be a "size 10."
The family's disappointment over the delay of al-Zeidi's release contrasted with their festive mood when they left the family home early Monday morning for the al-Muthana military base.
Men performed tribal dances and women sang and ululated. Children carried balloons, Iraqi flags and posters bearing al-Zeidi's image. Everyone dressed for a special occasion.
Al-Zeidi, a Shiite who turned 30 while in jail, was convicted in March of assault. His three-year prison sentence was reduced to one because he had no prior criminal record. He was released three months early for good behavior.