BAGHDAD – Security agents destroyed the shoes thrown at US President George W Bush by an Iraqi journalist during checks to ensure they did not contain explosives, the investigating judge said on Thursday.
"The shoes were examined by the Iraqi and American security services and then destroyed," the judge told AFP.
Journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi, 29, has been in custody in Baghdad since Sunday’s dramatic shoe protest against Bush, which made him an instant sensation in the Arab world.
Zaidi hurled his shoes at Bush’s head at a press conference in Baghdad and insulted him.
The judge said the court had turned down a request for Zaidi’s release on bail, arguing that it would be for his own protection.
"We have refused the request for the release on bail of Muntazer al-Zaidi for the sake of the investigation and for his own security," Dhiya al-Kenani said.
He said Zaidi had "signs of blows to the face" but was otherwise in good health and did not appear to have a broken arm as reported by his brother.
The journalist could face between five and 15 years behind bars if found guilty of "aggression against a foreign head of state during an official visit," under Iraqi law.
But the term would be one to five years if he is ruled to have carried out "an attempted aggression".
The judge said the lack of the key piece of evidence in the case – Zaidi’s destroyed shoes which Bush quipped were size 10 – would not prevent the investigation from proceeding.
"I would have preferred to have had the shoes as evidence for the case but since Muntazer al-Zaidi has confessed to his action and that the television pictures confirm it, the investigation can continue," he said.
Zaidi’s brother has said he was hospitalised after being beaten by security guards and was suffering a broken arm and ribs, as well as injuries to an eye and a leg.
The judge said Zaidi was injured "when he was being arrested, not afterwards," rejecting suggestions he had been beaten in custody. "He was not beaten during interrogation."
He made no comment on the claims of broken ribs or an injured leg, but said a doctor examines him each day that "and he has medicines at his disposal in his room".
In Bethlehem, about 50 Palestinian journalists staged a bare-foot protest on Thursday to show solidarity with Zaidi, who relatives and colleagues said had hurled the shoes because he detested Americans and Bush.
The sit-in came as hundreds of pilgrims gathered ahead of Christmas celebrations in the city where Christians believe Jesus was born.
[AFP / Expatica]