Iraqi Speaker says he may resign over shoe-thrower dispute
Iraq's parliamentary Speaker says he may resign from the position after parliament descended into chaos over whether to free a journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush.
The arguments erupted among Iraqi legislators on Wednesday over the fate of journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who hurled two shoes at Bush at a news conference on Sunday and called him a dog.
Bush dodged both pieces of footwear and has publicly stated he did not feel threatened by the incident.
Iraqi legislators were reviewing a resolution that calls for all non-U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq in 2009 when the session was interrupted by legislators who argued parliament should be focusing on al-Zeidi's case.
Officials are holding al-Zeidi while they investigate allegations that he insulted a foreign leader and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It's a charge that carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
Under the Iraqi legal system, the case is given to a judge who investigates the allegation, weighs the evidence and recommends whether to order a trial. It is a process that is often conducted informally and can take months.
The parliamentary dispute escalated into a screaming match that prompted Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani's resignation, said Wisam al-Zubaidi, an adviser to parliament's deputy Speaker.
"I have no honour leading this parliament and I announce my resignation," said al-Mashhadani, who has threatened to resign from the position previously.
An official in the Speaker's office said he was unsure if al-Mashhadani truly intends to step aside from the position or if he had just grown frustrated with the disorder when he made the statement.
Officials have not provided further comment on his remark.
About 1,500 demonstrators also took to the streets Wednesday in the Baghdad Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah to demand al-Zeidi's release.
In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes is a sign of contempt. Many Iraqis believe al-Zeidi was a hero for insulting an American president widely blamed for the chaos that has engulfed their country since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.
The judge investigating al-Zeidi's case saw him in jail on Wednesday. His family said they had expected him to appear in Central Criminal Court.
"That means my brother was severely beaten and they fear that his appearance could trigger anger at the court," al-Zeidi's brother, Dhargham, told the Associated Press.
Officials have denied al-Zeidi suffered severe injuries after he was wrestled to the ground on Sunday. Another brother confirmed al-Zeidi did not sustain any serious injuries in the incident or following his arrest.
With files from the Associated Press