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17.12.2008 US & Canada

Bush shoe thrower beaten by police

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The Iraqi reporter who threw his shoes at President Bush appeared in a Baghdad court Tuesday - facing up to two years in jail - amid reports he had been roughed up.

Muntadhar al Zeidi's employer, Al Baghdadia television, said he was "seriously injured" and asked that lawyers and aide workers be allowed to visit him.

One of Al Zeidi's brothers, Maitham, said his sibling is "in good health, but had been taken to a hospital in the Green Zone to be treated for injuries.

"He was wounded in the head because he was hit by a rifle butt, and one of his arms was broken," Maitham said.

Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf said al Zeidi could be charged with insulting a foreign leader, which carries a maximum two year sentence.

Al Zeidi became a national hero Sunday when he hurled his shoes at Bush during a press conference in Baghdad. Iraqi guards tackled him and took him into custody.

Throwing a shoe is a major sign of disrespect in the Arab world.

State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the United States "condemns any kind of unnecessary force used against the reporter ... I don't know that that happened, but certainly if that did take place, we would condemn that."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, who tried to block one of the shoes from hitting Bush, blasted al Zeidi's actions, while Iraqis across the country called him a hero and protested his arrest.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said it's up to Iraq to decide al Zeidi's fate.

"The president harbors no hard feelings about the incident," she said.

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