British journalists and peace activists today sent a letter to the US Embassy in London calling for the release of Iraqi journalist Muntadar Al-Zaidi who on Sunday threw both his shoes at US president George Bush during a press conference.
Al-Zaidi is being held at an undisclosed location in the Green Zone and has been charged with “aggression against a president” after the incident in which he also called the US president a “dog”.
The letter has been signed by former MP and lifelong NUJ member Tony Benn, Guardian journalist Nick Davies and Jeremy Corbyn MP among others. It calls on the US to guarantee Al-Zaidi’s safety and secure his release immediately.
“We fear for Al-Zaidi’s life,” said David Crouch, from Media Workers Against The War. “The Iraqi government and US forces have an appalling record of detaining, abusing, torturing and killing journalists.”
A protest is due to be held tomorrrow at the US embassy in Grosvenor Square and those attending have been asked to take at least one shoe to leave there as a show of solidarity..
Davies told Press Gazette: ‘Any time that journalists are abused for political reasons, it would be a good thing for other journalists to stand up for them.
‘If he had thrown his shoes at a tramp in the street, if he’d have thrown his shoes at somebody from Al-Qaeda, he would still be walking around the streets. But it is because he threw his shoes at somebody who is a political ally of the government that he is being treated this way.”
Davies said he has heard reports that Al-Zaidi could face up to 15 years in jail. He added that Al-Zaidi’s brother said the journalist had been ‘very seriously injured’while in custody.
‘If a British journalist picked up his shoes and threw them at George Bush, he gets arrested, charged with a minor public order offence and gets bail within twelve hours – he doesn’t get beaten up in custody,’he said
Al-Zaidi has written to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asking for a pardon, describing his own behaviour as an ‘ugly act”.
In the letter he recalls the kindness Al-Maliki once showed him during an interview in 2005 and asked for kindness once again.
Al-Zeidi is a correspondent for an Iraqi-owned television station based in Cairo.
According to PA, he could face two years jail for insulting a foreign leader.
Demonstrations have been held around the Islamic world calling for Al-Zaidi’s release.
Among these were journalists in Khartoum, Egypy, who are pictured holding their shoes aloft.