Shoe-throwing journalist released

Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi, jailed for throwing his shoes at former US President George Bush, has been released after his three-year sentence was reduced to nine months.

The image of President Bush ducking from shoes flying in his direction became one of the iconic moments of his presidency. The little-known TV reporter who caused the incident achieved fame around the world and hero status in Arab countries where Bush was extremely unpopular.

Now Muntadhar al-Zaidi’s family say they can't wait to have him home, where he'll be given a hero's welcome.

“September 14 marked nine months in prison for my brother. We spoke to his lawyer, Mr. Saadi, who confirmed the date, but so far we haven’t received any official notification,” says Muntadhar’s brother, Dargham al-Zaidi.

Muntadhar’s act of protest was all the more symbolic, as showing the soles of one’s shoes to someone is considered highly disrespectful in the Arab and Muslim world.

Muntadhar’s nephew was given one of the offending articles as a present. He wrote a poem in his uncle’s honor.

“He threw his shoe in a way that turned into a symbol of our battle against humiliation. Such is our response to those who dared to shed our tears and blood,” objects Heidar Dargham, nephew of Muntadhar al-Zaidi.

And it’s not just his family that can’t wait to celebrate Muntadhar’s release from prison. Offers of presents have been coming from across Iraq and even from abroad.

“I officially confirm on behalf of our whole family that we have declined all the presents offered,” says Muntadhar’s brother, Udei al-Zaidi.

Except one…

“He can marry any of the girls from our clan and 500 trucks accompanied by our men will bring her dowry in golden jewelry to the Iraqi border,” says Sheikh Akhmed from Nablus, Palestinian Autonomy region.

This generous offer from the Palestinian sheikh is the only present that the family couldn’t decide on. They say – it’s up to Muntadhar what to do with his personal life.