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Mon 22 Dec 2008 09:19 AM

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Lawyer says Bush shoe thrower to sue

Iraqi journalist who threw shoes at US president reportedly to sue security guards who allegedly beat him up.

Muntazer al-Zaidi, the Iraqi man who threw his shoes at US President George W. Bush, is to sue security guards who he alleges beat him up after the incident, his lawyer said on Sunday.

"Muntazer has filed a complaint today (Sunday) against those who assaulted him," lawyer Dhiya al-Saadi told news agency AFP, saying those responsible worked for the security forces of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's media office.

"There are bruises on his body. He has lost a tooth in his upper jaw, and his left eye is bloodshot," the lawyer said, adding that the list of injuries is backed up by medical checks.

Zaidi, a 29-year-old journalist, grabbed the world spotlight when he threw his shoes at Bush during a farewell visit to Iraq last Sunday by the US president who ordered the 2003 invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein.

He was wrestled to the ground by security forces and later arrested.

The journalist stands accused of "aggression against a foreign head of state during an official visit," an offence that carries a prison term of between five and 15 years under Iraqi law.

But the court could convict him of the lesser charge of an "attempted aggression" which carries a prison term of one to five years.

"The damages are the result of beatings and harsh treatment in the hours following his arrest," Saadi said. "Once he was transferred to prison he was no longer beaten or ill treated."

An investigating judge said on Thursday that Zaidi has "signs of blows to the face" but is otherwise in good health.

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."

Saadi said the investigation into Zaidi's actions last Sunday is complete and a trial date should be set in the next few days.

Maliki said on Sunday that it was for the courts to determine what action if any should be taken against Zaidi.

"I say that the law has to take its natural course in the case of Muntazer al-Zaidi even if it leads to his release," the government press office quoted Maliki as saying.

"A journalist should not stop expressing himself in utmost freedom and frankness, but in doing so should not overstep the boundaries of journalistic ethics," he added.

Zaidi's family demonstrated for a third day on Sunday to press for his release from custody.

"Our demands are known, and they are to release our brother without conditions, and to tell us his health situation and prosecute the person who attacked him," his brother Durgham said.

Durgham al-Zaidi initially claimed his brother suffered a broken arm and ribs at the hands of the Iraqi security forces but acknowledged on Saturday that he only sustained cuts while being taken into custody after his protest.

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