New Year's Eve trial for shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist

The row over the treatment of the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush spilled over into parliament today amid chaotic scenes.

Iraqi MPs called an emergency session to try to remove the speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, who said he was resigning last week during a shouting match in parliament over the detention of shoe-thrower Muntadhar al-Zeidi.

It was unclear at that time whether Mr al-Mashhadani, a Sunni, truly intended to resign or was exaggerating in the heat of the moment. But Shiite and Kurdish MPs tried to force the issue today.

The MPs said al-Mashhadani insulted the legislature last week when he said: “There is no honour in leading this parliament and I announce my resignation.”

Meanwhile today, al-Zeidi’s brother said he did not regret his actions and claimed he was forced to write a letter of apology after being tortured in jail.

Al-Zeidi’s trial on charges of assaulting a foreign leader is to begin on New Year’s Eve, the Iraqi Higher Judicial Court said. A conviction could bring up to two years in prison.

The prime minister’s office said last week that al-Zeidi had written a letter of apology and asked for a pardon. But his brother, Uday al-Zeidi, said the letter was written against the journalist’s will.

“He told me that he has no regret because of what he did and that he would do it again,” he said.

He said he visited his brother in jail on Sunday and found him with a missing tooth and cigarette burns on his ears.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi told his brother that jailers also doused him with cold water while he was naked, Uday al-Zeidi said.

The investigating judge in the case has said that the journalist was beaten around the face and eyes when he was wrestled to the ground after throwing the shoes.

“The thing that makes you cry and laugh at the same time is that when the prime minister said that my brother was not tortured and will not be tortured, he was under severe torture by security authorities,” he said.

“When I saw him yesterday, there were bruises on his face and body. He told me that they used an iron bar to hit him when they took him out of the press conference room.

“He told me that he began screaming and thought all those at the press conference would have heard his voice,” Uday al-Zeidi said.

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