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Demonstrations have taken place across Iraq calling for the release
Demonstrations have taken place across Iraq calling for the release of a journalist who was arrested after hurling his shoes at U.S. President George Bush at a press conference in the capital, Baghdad.

Demonstrators rallied for his release in Baghdad, the southern Shiite dominated Basra, and the holy city of Najaf, where some reports said that shoes were thrown at a U.S. convoy. Showing the soles of shoes is considered a grievous insult in Arabic culture.

During a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nour Maliki on Sunday, Muntazer al-Zaidi, a correspondent for the Cairo-based al-Baghdadiya TV, hurled his shoes at the U.S. president, shouting in Arabic, "This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, dog" and "This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq." He was then overpowered by security personnel and taken away. (Video)

While there is no agency that collects figures, some estimates say that over a million Iraqi civilians may have died as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein.

The AFP news agency has said that over 200 lawyers, including Hussein's former lawyer, have volunteered to defend the Iraqi journalist. Hussein was hanged on December 30, 2006.

There was vocal approval on the streets of the Iraqi capital for the journalist's actions. Zaidi, 29, was held captive by gunmen for two days in Baghdad in November 2007.

"He behaved like a real Iraqi," a 52-year-old housewife told RIA Novosti. "He took revenge on Bush for all of us - Sunni and Shiite - for the American crimes in Iraq."

Another woman said that, "He was not a crazy guy or a terrorist and this proves that most Iraqis feel like this."

A student at Baghdad University, who gave his name simply as Mohammed, said that, "This is the best thing we could have given Bush to remember us by."

Bush, who dodged both shoes, said, "I don't know what the guy's cause is." He later commented that, "If you want the facts, it's a size 10 shoe that he threw"

The outgoing U.S. leader later signed a security pact under which U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2011. They are to withdraw initially from Iraqi cities by June 2009.


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