BAGHDAD – The Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at President George W. Bush is begging for a pardon for what he described as an “ugly act,” the prime minister’s spokesman said Thursday.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for an Iraqi-owned television station based in Cairo, Egypt, could face two years imprisonment for insulting a foreign leader. He remained in custody Thursday night.
“It is too late to reverse the big and ugly act that I perpetrated,” al-Zeidi wrote in a letter delivered to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, according to the prime minister’s spokesman.
The spokesman, Yassin Majid, told the Associated Press that al-Zeidi went on in the letter to recall an interview he conducted with the prime minister in 2005 when al-Maliki invited him into his home, saying: “Come in, it is your home, too.”
“So I ask for your pardon, excellency,” Majid quoted the letter as saying.
However, the journalist’s brother, Dhargham al-Zeidi, told the AP he was skeptical that his brother would write such a letter.
“I am suspicious that my brother wrote that letter to al-Maliki because I know my brother very well,” he said. He added that family members and staffers from Al-Baghdadia would stage a sit-in today near the U.S.-controlled Green Zone.
White House press secretary Dana Perino said Thursday that she’d seen reports that al-Zeidi had apologized but that she did not know whether Bush was aware of them.
Al-Zeidi has been in custody since the Sunday night incident, which occurred during a news conference by Bush and al-Maliki.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said he will be tried for “insult to a foreign leader, attempted assault.”
“This behavior was despicable, was affront to the Iraqi culture, Iraqi people, of hospitality, of self-respect, and it was an alien, alien move – and the government has condemned it, and many Iraqis have condemned it,” Zebari said in an interview with the AP. “But it has created a phenomena in the Arab world. They’re boasting about it as if a great victory has been achieved.”
Zebari said it was unlikely al-Zeidi would be released without being sentenced.
“Really, if this incident had happened during Saddam’s rule, he would have been shot on the spot,” he said.