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Shoe-thrower reportedly unhurt and sorry

Latest update : 2008-12-18

Aides to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki claim that Muntazer al-Zaidi, the journalist who hurled a pair of shoes at President Bush, wrote the PM a letter of apology. Meanwhile, a judge denied reports that Zaidi's arm was broken during his arrest.

AFP - The Iraqi journalist arrested for throwing his shoes at US President George W. Bush has written to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki apologising over the incident, Maliki's office said on Thursday.

"In his letter, he asks the prime minister's pardon," said press aide Yassin Majid, speaking of a note Muntazer al-Zaidi had "written by hand."

Majid gave no details of the nature or content of the apology.

Meanwhile, the judge investigating the case said he has denied bail to the 29-year-old reporter for Al-Baghdadia television for his own safety, while adding that he is in good health.

Zaidi, who relatives and colleagues said acted because he "detested" Bush and America, is being held for possible trial for aggression against a foreign head of state during an official visit.

He faces between five and 15 years in jail if convicted, but only one to five years if he is found to have carried out "an attempted aggression."

Majid said Zaidi recalled in his letter having interviewed Maliki in summer 2005 and that the premier had said "come back any time, you are always welcome."

Majid also said "Maliki is not thinking in terms of revenge. Muntazer is now in the hands of the law."

Investigating judge Dhiya al-Kenani said Zaidi acknowledged during questioning that he understood the significance of his act -- a grave insult among Muslims.

"When he was asked whether he had acted on the orders of a political party or for money, he said 'no.' And when asked if he was aware of the effect of his gesture, he answered 'yes'."

The judge said the fact that Zaidi failed to hit Bush -- who dodged the throws -- could work in his favour.

Kenani said he "refused the request for the release on bail of Muntazer al-Zaidi for the sake of the investigation and for his own security."

If Zaidi were "out on bail, there would be a risk of homemade bombs or attacks. And there would be journalists who would go after him."

He said Zaidi has "signs of blows to the face" but is otherwise in good health and does not appear to have a broken arm as reported by his brother.

The judge said Zaidi was injured "when he was being arrested, not afterwards," rejecting suggestions he had been beaten in custody. "He was not beaten during interrogation."

The judge, who interviewed Zaidi for four hours on Tuesday and again on Wednesday, made no comment on claims of broken ribs or an injured leg.

He said a doctor examines Zaidi each day "and he has medicines at his disposal in his room."

Zaidi has been in custody in Baghdad since Sunday's dramatic shoe protest against Bush, which made him an instant sensation in the Arab world.

The judge said his investigation will be finished by Saturday or Sunday then transferred to the high criminal court, where three judges will study the case for one or two days before a trial date is set.

However, the judge said Zaidi has confessed.

Kenani made the revelation when announcing that the shoes Zaidi had thrown have been destroyed by security agents to ensure they did not contain explosives.

"The shoes were examined by the Iraqi and American security services and then destroyed," the judge told AFP.

However, he said the lack of the key piece of evidence in the case would not prevent the investigation from proceeding.

"I would have preferred to have had the shoes as evidence for the case but since Muntazer al-Zaidi has confessed to his action and that the television pictures confirm it, the investigation can continue," he said.

Date created : 2008-12-18