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Iraqis urge government to free shoe-thrower

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Journalist just looking for notoriety, Bush says
  • Hundreds of students carried banners demanding release of Muntadhar al-Zaidi
  • Al-Zaidi was described by demonstrators as an "honorable Iraqi"
  • Brother says reporter hated American, Iranian influence in Baghdad
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From Jomana Karadsheh
CNN
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Protesters across Iraq Tuesday urged government authorities to free the TV correspondent who threw his shoes at President Bush.

President Bush, left, ducks a shoe as Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki tries to protect him Sunday.

TV reporter Muntadhar al-Zaidi, shown in a file photo, was jailed after throwing his shoes at President Bush.

Hundreds of students at Diyala University in Baquba carried banners demanding the release of Muntadhar al-Zaidi -- described by demonstrators as an "honorable Iraqi."

Smaller protests emerged in the Anbar province city of Falluja and in two Baghdad locations -- Baghdad University in the northern part of the city and western Baghdad's Ameriya district. In those events, students also took to the streets.

Al-Zaidi threw his shoes at Bush while Bush and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki were holding a Sunday news conference after the president's surprise visit to Baghdad. The journalist was dragged to the ground, hustled out of the room and arrested.

Shouting as he was dragged to the floor, the reporter called his shoe-throwing -- a traditional insult in Arab culture -- a "farewell kiss" to a "dog" who launched the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Video Watch Muntadhar al-Zaidi throw his shoes at Bush »

Dhirgham al-Zaidi, the shoe-thrower's brother, said the journalist hated the "material American occupation" and Iranian influence in Iraq.

Asked about the incident by CNN's Candy Crowley, Bush said, "I didn't have much time to reflect on anything. I was ducking and dodging."

He said the journalist was "looking for notoriety" and that authorities shouldn't overreact in their treatment of him.

TV networks across the world continue to air the shoe-throwing scene, which has touched a nerve in the Arab world, where there has been an outpouring of support for al-Zaidi -- a correspondent for the Egyptian-based Al-Baghdadia TV.

The network, which has been airing rolling live coverage about the incident, is urging his release and has invited guests who support him into its studio. Video Watch Arab reaction to the incident »

Its crawls include messages of support from Iraqis and foreigners. Iraqis have been receiving short text messages of support on their cell phones, and some of the notes are short poems.

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Al-Baghdadia reported Tuesday al-Zaidi called one of his brothers and said he was in the custody of judicial authorities and will appear Wednesday in Baghdad's Central Criminal Court. He asked his defense team to meet him there, the network said.

Web sites and Facebook pages devoted to al-Zaidi have also been posted.

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