October 13, 2009 / 3:53 PM / 10 years ago

Iraqi who threw shoes at Bush arrives in Switzerland

GENEVA (Reuters) - The Iraqi journalist who served nine months in prison for throwing his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush arrived on Tuesday in Geneva where he wants to set up a foundation to help civilian victims of the war.

Swiss television showed Muntazer al-Zaidi, whose outburst during a Baghdad news conference last December brought worldwide fame, arriving from Beirut at Geneva’s Cointrin airport.

He was met by his brother Maythen and Geneva lawyer Mauro Poggia, who told the television Zaidi had withdrawn his request for asylum in Switzerland in favor of a 90-day tourist visa.

The multiple-entry visa will allow him to travel within the border-free Schengen area in Europe. Schengen includes all European Union states apart from Britain and Ireland, as well as Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.

Zaidi was sentenced to three years’ jail for assaulting a head of state, but the penalty was later reduced.

Upon release last month, he accused the Iraqi guards who seized him of beating and giving him electric shocks.

Millions of people across the world saw footage of Zaidi throwing his footwear at Bush and calling him a “dog,” both grave insults in the Middle East.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Jon Hemming

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