Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 02:12 am (KSA) 23:12 pm (GMT)

Despite 'shoe-throwing' fame I am poor: Zaidi

A shot of the now infamous incident where journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi threw his shoes at Bush
A shot of the now infamous incident where journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi threw his shoes at Bush

Despite becoming an Arab hero and achieving world fame for hurling his shoes at former American president George Bush, Muntazer al-Zaidi said his only regret after spending almost a year in prison was that he remains a poor man, press reports said Sunday.

Zaidi, who claims he was repeatedly beaten while in prison for nine months, said he blamed the media about preconceived notions that he would become a rich man after his daring stunt at a packed press conference in Iraq.

At the time thousands of Iraqis protested Zaidi imprisonment

"I blame the media because they said I would become rich for doing what I did, that I would become a multi-millionaire," Zaidi said in an interview with Observer magazine.

"Though I thank them for their concern for me, all the promises about gifts I heard when I was in prison were just empty. The only gift I've got since my release is from Canadian television, who made me their man of the year and gave me a pair of golden shoes."

Zaidi, who is currently in Switzerland to receive treatment for several health problems, was hailed across the Arab world as a hero and after his release from jail in September he received a hero's welcome in Iraq and at al- Baghdadiyah TV station, where he works.

As news of the shoe-throwing incident broke offers from young brides to millions were announced in local press across the Middle East but Zaidi said he is yet to see any of those offers materialize, much to his disappointment as he hopes to open an orphanage in Iraq.

"I will go back to my country when I find support for my foundation to help orphans and widows as I had promised," Zaidi said. "All their eyes now look to me and are waiting for me, so I will return one day."

Was it worth it?

 I had prepared myself to die, not to spend only one year in prison. I threw shoes at Bush… while Bush threw millions of bombs at Iraqis. Which was worse? 
Muntazer al-Zaidi

Despite his failed hopes of becoming a millionaire, Zaidi said he was still proud of what he did.

"Everywhere people have received me like a hero, but the point is not the reception, the point is they believe in what I did. I feel very proud of what I did. I am happy I defended my country's dignity. All free people respect this."

Zaidi was immediately taken to jail after he hurled his shoes at Bush who stood next to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at a farewell press conference in Iraq. Zaidi was initially sentenced to three years in jail but was released after nine months on good behavior.

After his release Zaidi said he was tortured and beaten with electric cables and iron bars. He also said he was immersed in cold water.

"I still have problems in my stomach, my liver and with my nose, which didn't heal properly after the guards broke it. It is being paid for with my own money and through friends," Zaidi said.

After all that, was it worth it?

"Yes it was, I was ready to pay [with] my life. I had prepared myself to die, not to spend only one year in prison. I threw shoes at Bush… while Bush threw millions of bombs at Iraqis. Which was worse?"

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