Iraqi Shoe Thrower: 'I am Free Again, but My Homeland Is Still a Prison."

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Iraqi Shoe Thrower: 'I am Free Again, but My Homeland Is Still a Prison."

'I was tortured'

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File photo shows a pair of shoes bearing the US flag hanging from a podium during an anti-US protest outside the former US embassy in Tehran. (AFP/File/Behrouz Mehri)

The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former US President George W Bush says he was tortured by senior government officials while in jail.

Shortly after his release from nine months in a Baghdad prison, Muntadar al-Zaidi demanded an apology - and said he would name the officials later.

Iraqi officials told the BBC his claims should be investigated.

His protest last December made him a hero for many Arabs. He was convicted of assaulting a foreign leader.

Initially, he was sentenced to three years in jail.

But he had the term reduced to 12 months on appeal and was released three months early for good behaviour.

'Insurgent revolutionary'

After his release on Tuesday he told journalists: "I am free again, but my homeland is still a prison."

Reuters news agency reported he was slurring his speech because of a missing tooth.

He went on to say he had suffered beatings, whippings, electric shocks and simulated drowning at the hands of officials and guards.

"At the time that Prime Minister Nouri Maliki said on television that he could not sleep without being reassured on my fate... I was being tortured in the worst ways, beaten with electric cables and iron bars," he said.

He demanded an apology from Mr Maliki and said he would name the officials who tortured him in due course.

He also said he feared US intelligence services regarded him as an "insurgent revolutionary" and would "spare no effort" in a bid to kill him.

"I want to warn all my relatives and people close to me that these services will use all means to trap and try to kill and liquidate me either physically, socially or professionally," he said.

His allegations of abuse mirror claims made earlier by his family, who said he had been beaten, suffering a broken arm, broken ribs and internal bleeding.

The Iraqi military earlier denied the allegations, but following Zaidi's news conference Sami Al Askari, an adviser to Mr Maliki, said his torture claims should be investigated.

Zaidi's family has been preparing to throw a party for him.

He has reportedly received offers of money, jobs and even marriage from across the Arab world.

His relatives say he was offered a golden horse by the Emir of Qatar.

When news of his release filtered through to his family's home in Baghdad, there was an eruption of celebration, with women dancing and singing.

'Goodbye kiss'

The shoe-throwing incident came during a joint news conference between Mr Bush and Mr Maliki.

As he threw the shoes, Zaidi shouted: "This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog.

"This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."

In an interview afterwards, Mr Bush insisted he did not harbour any ill feeling about it.

"It was amusing - I've seen a lot of weird things during my presidency, and this may rank up there as one of the weirdest," he said.

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