Middle East

Muntader al-Zaidi: Iraq shoe-thrower standing for parliament

Election poster for Muntader al-Zaidi Image copyright Facebook/@Montazeralzaidi
Image caption Muntader al-Zaidi is a candidate for the Saeroun (Marching Towards Reform) list

The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former US President George W Bush is running for parliament.

Muntader al-Zaidi is standing in next week's elections as a candidate for a list founded by the influential Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr.

Mr Zaidi said he wanted to fight the corruption that plagues Iraq.

His protest during a visit by Mr Bush to Baghdad in 2008 made him a hero for many Iraqis. But he was convicted of assaulting a foreign leader.

He served nine months of a 12-month prison sentence. After his release, he alleged that he had been tortured by Iraqi officials and guards, and that he needed treatment for broken teeth, bone fractures and other injuries.

Mr Zaidi was working for al-Baghdadiya TV when he attended a news conference between President Bush and then Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

As the two leaders spoke, he stood up and threw both his shoes at Mr Bush to show his anger at what he considered the injustice of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the violence that followed it.

He shouted: "This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog. This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Many Arabs protested against the detention of Mr Zaidi after the shoe-throwing incident

Mr Bush managed to dodge the shoes and in an interview afterwards he insisted he did not harbour any ill feeling. "It was amusing - I've seen a lot of weird things during my presidency, and this may rank up there as one of the weirdest," he said.

After his release from prison, Mr Zaidi quit journalism and moved to Europe, where he set up a humanitarian organisation to help Iraqi war victims.

Mr Zaidi vowed that if he was elected to the Iraqi parliament on 12 May he would "sweep away the thieves and corrupt people, prosecute those who steal Iraqi money, and stop public money being wasted".

He is a candidate on the Saeroun (Marching Towards Reform) list, which is an alliance between Moqtada Sadr's Istiqama (Integrity) party and six mostly secular groups, including the Iraqi communist party.

The list is one of 88 contesting the polls and is seen as a challenger to the Victory and Reform list of Shia Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi; State of Law, led by Mr Maliki, who is also Shia; al-Fatah (Conquest), which comprises the political wings of militias in the Shia-led paramilitary Popular Mobilisation force; and Iraqi Solidarity, founded by Sunni Vice-President Osama al-Nujaifi.

Some 24 million people are eligible to vote in the polls. The 328 seats in parliament will be allocated according to a proportional representation system, although 46 seats are reserved for Kurds and at least a quarter of the seats for women.

These are the first elections to be held since the Iraqi government declared victory over the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) last December.

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