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Allegations of Torture amid Shoe Furor
MPs, Offiials Weigh in on al-Zaidi; So Far, Media Groups Shy Away from Case
12/16/2008 4:29 PM ET

As allegations emerge in the media that Iraqi authorities have tortured and injured the detained correspondent Muntadar al-Zaidi, taken into custody after famously throwing his two shoes at the American president in a press conference on Sunday, the furor over the detained correspondent seems no nearer to dying down, and details remain sketchy over the exact processes that Iraqi authorities are pursuing with the al-Baghdadiya channel reporter.

Al-Jazeera Net reports in English and Arabic that the brother of the detained correspondent has said that his brother was "tortured" and injured after his detention. Durgham al-Zaidi told the agency that his brother's hand was broken. Meanwhile, al-Malaf Press cites family members who say that the correspondent was injured in the head and taken to the Ibn Sina Hospital for treatment. Iraqi security agencies have denied torturing or injuring al-Zaidi.

An Iraqi security source told al-Malaf Press that the correspondent was interrogated personally by Iraqi national security advisor Muwaffak al-Rubaie. That same source told the agency that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki refused the request of an unidentified American news outlet to interview the detained journalist.

Meanwhile, the firestorm continues over the incident, as Iraqi officials weighed in on the matter. As reported elsewhere, the Iraqi government has denounced the attack, and says it is planning to try the correspondent under a 1960s penal code. Conflicting reports suggest that the correspondent will face charges for attempted assassination of a president on the one extreme, or of defaming the Iraqi state on the other.

Iraqi MPs have also spoken out on the matter. MP Mithal al-Alusi, representing the only seat of his Umma Party in Parliament, condemned the attack and said that said that the true targets of al-Zaidi's shoes were all Iraqi politicians, adding that "we do not support any attack on any guest of Iraq, especially President Bush who has supported Iraq," Newsmatique writes in Arabic.

Meanwhile, the same agency writes that Muhammad Isma'il, an MP with the opposition Fadhila Party has said that, while he views al-Zaidi's acts as "errant," the Iraqi state must handle the matter according to humane standards. The Fadhila MP added that while the journalist's acts "do not demonstrate his commitment to the conditions of journalistic work," he also suggested that "it's possible that the acts of al-Zaidi go back to the violations committed by the American Army against Iraqi civilians."

Some rights organizations, including the Arab Association for Human Rights, have issued statements calling for al-Zaidi's safety and due process under the law, although these calls have not been matched by Iraq's media rights organizations, which appear reluctant to go to bat for the detained journalist, despite the round-the-clock appeals by the al-Baghdadiya television network, al-Zaidi's employer.

Ziad al-Ajili, director of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, an Iraqi press rights monitor, told Newsmatique in a separate interview that "No freedom of expression and no democracy allows the insulting of others or throwing shoes at them," adding that "the personal conduct of journalists that they might pursue in their personal life must not be reflected in their professional life, where they must observe high standards," adding that al-Zaidi could have used other forms of protest against the American president, "without throwing his shoes at him."

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