Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat- In a press conference following his release from prison on Tuesday, Muntazer al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who infamously threw his shoes at former President George W. Bush during a press conference in Baghdad, has demanded that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki apologize to him, and accused the Iraqi authorities of torture.
Al-Zaidi was taken straight to the al-Baghdadiya office following his release from prison where, during a press conference, he said “I call for al-Maliki to apologize for withholding the truth from the people, for at the time when he (al-Maliki) said that he could not sleep until he was reassured of my fate…I was suffering the most hideous kinds of torture from being given electric shocks, and being beaten with cables and metal rods.”
Al-Zaidi added “They [the guards] left me in the morning, handcuffed, and in a place with no protection from the cold, after being immersed in water from dawn. This is why I will talk about the names of those involved in my torture, and this includes State officials and officials in the army.”
During this press conference, al-Zaidi, who had grown a beard and was wearing a dark suit and tie, also said “I am now free, but my country is still captive. I would like to thank all those who stood beside me from the honorable people in my country and [throughout] the Arab and Islamic world.”
Al-Zaidi also revealed “There is the fear inside me that the CIA will monitor me and may eliminate me physically, socially, or professionally.”
Muntazer al-Zaidi, who was released on good behavior after serving three quarters of his sentence, also said that “the CIA or its affiliates in Iraq will spare no effort to eliminate me.”
Al-Zaidi said that he had no concrete proof that the CIA would monitor him, and that this is just an “expectation” on his part.
Al-Zaidi also revealed that during his stay in prison, he was not held in solitary confinement but rather with the general prison population, and that during this time he received news from his lawyer and members of his family.
When asked about his motivation for throwing his shoes at former President George W. Bush, al-Zaidi said that he considered this to be a “normal reaction to what the Occupation [forces] were doing inside Iraq.”
Al-Zaidi, who seemed tired, and who lost a tooth and suffered a broken nose during his time in prison, said that he did not throw his shoes at former President Bush in order to “go down in history” but that he wanted to reflect the images seen in the Iraqi street every day [under US occupation], particularly with regards to the fear, killings, and intimidation caused by the occupying forces.
Al-Zaidi added “What provoked me to do what I did was the injustice experienced by my people with regards to the occupation that humiliated my country. Pictures of the occupation and what it caused flashed through my head before I did what I did, and so I wanted to throw my shoe at Bush in order to express my rejection of the occupation, and the plundering of my country’s resources.”
He added “what [also] provoked me to do what I did was injustice, and how the occupation humiliated my country by putting it [Iraq] under its shoes and crushing the heads of its sons, whether they are men, women, or the aged.”
Al-Zaidi apologized to the media and journalists if he had caused them any embarrassment by attacking former President Bush during a press conference whilst being a journalist, but stressed them he himself was “very content” with what happened.
The al-Zaidi family confirmed that Muntazer al-Zaidi will travel abroad to receive treatment for the physical problems that he is suffering from as a result of torture, and that he will continue to work for the widows and orphans of Iraq. Al-Zaidi did not rule out a return to working in the media, but said that he would have to think about what happened, and regardless of what happens, will continue to advocate for the rights of the Iraqi people.