Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 20:44 pm (KSA) 17:44 pm (GMT)

Iraq shoe-thrower's release delayed until Tues.

An Iraqi girl stands next to a poster of jailed journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi in Baghdad (File)
An Iraqi girl stands next to a poster of jailed journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi in Baghdad (File)

Lavish gifts, TV deals and marriage proposals await Muntazer al-Zaidi, the reporter jailed for throwing his shoes in disgust at former U.S. president George W. Bush, when he is released Tuesday, a day later than expected.

Zaidi's brother, Durgham, was in tears on Monday as he told reporters that the necessary legal procedures had not been completed and they would have to wait at least one more day to see 30-year-old television reporter at liberty.

"He called me from the prison and said 'they won't release me today, they will free me tomorrow'," Durgham told AFP.

The Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes at Bush during a news conference

Although Zaidi's prison time is up, Iraqi inmates often see their liberty delayed for several extra days to allow the necessary prison release documents to be signed and approved.

Zaidi was initially sentenced to three years for assaulting a foreign head of state but had his jail time reduced to one year on appeal. His sentence was cut further on account of good behavior.

The reporter's three sisters, two brothers and many friends had gathered in central Baghdad where well-wishers carried balloons, flags, banners and portraits of the jailed reporter, seeking a glimpse of him.

Zaidi shouted "it is the farewell kiss, you dog," at Bush on Dec. 14 last year, seconds before hurling his size-10 shoes at the man who ordered Iraq be invaded and occupied six and a half years ago.

Although Bush, who ducked to avoid the speeding footwear, laughed off the attack, the incident caused massive embarrassment, to both him and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The leaders had been speaking at a joint press conference in Baghdad on what was Bush's farewell visit to Iraq before handing power to Barack Obama.

After-jail rewards

Both shoes missed after Bush ducked

When released, Zaidi faces the prospect of a very different life from his previous existence as a journalist for al-Baghdadia television, a small, privately-owned Cairo-based channel, which continued to pay his salary in jail.

Zaidi's boss has promised the previously little-known reporter a new home as a reward for loyalty and the publicity that his actions, broadcast live across the world, generated for the channel.

But there is talk of plum job offers from bigger Arab networks, lavish gifts such as sports cars from businessmen, celebrity status, and reports that Arab women from Baghdad to the Gaza Strip want his hand in marriage.

Zaidi, who hails from Iraq's Shiite majority, was kidnapped in Baghdad and held by unknown captors for three days in 2007 and then detained for one day by U.S. forces at the beginning of 2008, according to his brother.

 Muntazer's release is a victory for all those who reject the occupation and stand against it 
Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi

Such experiences at least partly explained the vehemence of his action against Bush, friends said at the time of his arrest.

Zaidi also told the judge at his trial that he had been beaten up several times since being taken into custody last year.

The publicity that Zaidi garnered, however, means he is likely to be met with both adulation and bemusement among his countrymen, who were divided by his shoe-throwing gesture, considered a grave insult in the Muslim world.

"He is a brave man," said Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi, spokesman for radical anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose support comes from the millions of Iraqis living in Shiite slums around the country.

"Muntazer's release is a victory for all those who reject the occupation and stand against it."

But to many others, Zaidi's actions are nothing to be proud of.

"I don't consider him to have taken a heroic stance," said Ali Adnan, a 32-year-old defense ministry employee.

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