Iraqi Held in Shoe-Tossing Reportedly Asks Maliki's Pardon

The jailed journalist who threw his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush has asked for a pardon for what he described as 'an ugly act.' Video by AP
By Qassim Abdul-Zahra
Associated Press
Friday, December 19, 2008

BAGHDAD, Dec. 18 -- The Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at President Bush is begging for a pardon for what he described as "an ugly act," the prime minister's spokesman said Thursday.

Muntadar al-Zaidi, a correspondent for an Iraqi-owned television station based in Cairo, could face imprisonment if convicted of insulting a foreign leader. He remained in custody Thursday night.

"It is too late to reverse the big and ugly act that I perpetrated," Zaidi wrote in a letter delivered to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, according to the prime minister's spokesman.

The spokesman, Yaseen Majeed, said Zaidi went on in the letter to recall an interview he conducted with the prime minister in 2005 when Maliki invited him into his home, saying, "Come in; it is your home, too."

"So I ask for your pardon, excellency," Majeed quoted the letter as saying.

But the journalist's brother, Durgham al-Zaidi, said he was skeptical that his brother would write such a letter.

"I am suspicious . . . because I know my brother very well," he said. He added that family members and staffers from the al-Baghdadia TV station would stage a sit-in Friday near the U.S.-controlled Green Zone.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said Thursday that she'd seen reports that Zaidi had apologized but that she did not know whether Bush was aware of them.

"The president harbors no hard feelings about it, and the Iraqis have a process that they'll follow," Perino said. "But he did urge them not to overreact, because he was not bothered by the incident, although it's not appropriate for people to throw shoes at a press conference, at any leader."

Muntadar al-Zaidi has been in custody since the Sunday night incident, which occurred during a news conference by Bush and Maliki. The case has riveted Iraq, with many Iraqis considering Zaidi a hero for defying the U.S. president, whom they accuse of destroying their country.

A shouting match Wednesday between parliament members for and against Zaidi prompted the speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, to announce he was resigning.

Mashhadani showed up at parliament Thursday to resume his speaker duties. But so many lawmakers boycotted in protest of his outburst that the session was canceled.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company