Shoe-throwing Iraqi to be released

The Iraqi reporter who became famous worldwide when he threw his shoes at George W Bush is expected to be freed on Monday.

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BAGHDAD // Muntazer al Zaidi, the Iraqi reporter who became famous worldwide when he threw his shoes at then US president George W Bush, is thought likely to get a hero's welcome if he is freed from jail, as expected, on Monday. In December 2008 Zaidi's actions towards Mr Bush during the president's farewell visit to Baghdad captured many Iraqis' feelings of resentment following more than six years of bloodshed triggered by the US-led invasion in 2003. Condemned by the Iraqi government for his "barbaric act" during the news conference Mr Bush held with the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al Maliki, Zaidi was sentenced to three years in jail for assaulting a visiting head of state. The jail term was later reduced, and Zaidi's family expects his release on Monday.

Zaidi's lawyer Dhiaa al Saadi said he had no word yet on when Zaidi would be freed. Millions of people across the world have watched Zaidi hurl his shoes at Mr Bush and call the man who started the war in Iraq a "dog," both great insults in the Middle East. Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, called him courageous; a Libyan group headed by Muammar Gaddafi's daughter gave him an award for bravery; fathers from other Arab nations have offered Zaidi their daughters as brides.

Zaidi's arrest triggered demonstrations in Baghdad and Maitham al Zaidi, his brother, said supporters had already posted banners ahead of his release. He expects a crowd at the Baghdad airbase where Zaidi is due to be freed. * Reuters