The journalist who threw his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush was handed over to the Iraqi military, an Iraqi official said, as hundreds took to the streets Tuesday for a second day demanding his release.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi was turned over by the prime minister's security guards to face further investigation by the military command in charge of enforcing security in Baghdad, the official told The Associated Press.
Al-Zeidi was initially taken into custody by Iraqi security and interrogated about whether anybody had paid him to throw his shoes at Bush during a news conference Sunday in Baghdad, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
He could face charges of insulting a foreign leader and the Iraqi prime minister, who was standing next to Bush. The offense carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail.
In Mosul, Iraq's third largest city located north of Baghdad, an estimated 1,000 protesters carried banners and chanted slogans demanding al-Zeidi's release.
A couple of hundred more also protested Tuesday in Nasiriyah, a Shiite city about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, and Fallujah, a Sunni area west of the capital.
"Muntadhar al-Zeidi has expressed the feelings and ambitions of the Iraqi people toward the symbol of tyranny," said Nassar Afrawi, a protester in Nasiriyah.
In Baghdad, the head of the Iraqi Union of Journalists described al-Zeidi's action as "strange and unprofessional" but urged Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to give him clemency.
"Even if he has committed a mistake, the government and the judiciary are broad-minded and we hope they consider his release because he has a family and he is still young," Mouyyad al-Lami told Associated Press Television News. "We hope this case ends before going to court."
The protests came a day after tens of thousands in throughout Iraq demonstrated in support of al-Zeidi, whose action earned him hero status throughout the Arab world.
That reflects Arab animosity toward Bush for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and dissatisfaction with the president's handling of foreign policy matters in the Middle East.
That hostility as persisted even though violence has dropped by more than 80 percent in Iraq since earlier this year when car bombings and gunfights throughout the country were rampant.
Nevertheless, Iraqi security forces and U.S. troops continue to be targeted by insurgents.
A roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi police patrol exploded in central Baghdad's Andalus Square Tuesday, wounding three police officers and three civilians, said Iraqi police officer Salam Mohammed.
The U.S. military said in a written statement that troops killed three suspected insurgents and detained three others in separate operations targeting al-Qaida networks in the northern Iraq.
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