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Shoe-thrower furor builds

Iraq leader Nouri al-Maliki said a throat-slitter provoked shoe attack.

Family members sit at the home of Iraqi journalist Munthadar al-Zaidi, who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush. The apology letter from the Iraqi journalist was written against his will after he was tortured in detention, his brother said.

AP PHOTO

BAGHDAD — Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved Monday to undermine the popularity of the Iraqi who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush, saying the journalist confessed that the mastermind of the attack was a militant known for slitting his victims’ throats.

Tensions over the case also spilled into parliament, as a move to oust the abrasive Sunni speaker delayed a key decision on whether non-U.S. foreign troops will be allowed to stay in Iraq beyond New Year’s Eve.

Al-Maliki said that in a letter of apology to him, Muntadhar al-Zeidi wrote that a known militant had induced him to throw the shoes.

“He revealed ... that a person provoked him to commit this act, and that person is known to us for slitting throats,” al-Maliki said, according to the prime minister’s Web site. The alleged instigator was not named and neither al-Maliki nor any of his officials would elaborate.

The journalist’s family denied the claim and alleged that al-Zeidi was coerced into writing the letter, in which he was said to have requested a pardon for “the big and ugly act that I perpetrated.”

Al-Zeidi’s brother Dhargham said that it was “unfair” of al-Maliki to make the allegation about the throat-slitter and described the prime minister as “a sectarian man who is destroying the Iraqi people.”

Earlier, another brother said he met the journalist in prison and that he had expressed no regret for throwing the shoes.

“He told me that he has no regret for what he did and that he would do it again,” Uday al-Zeidi said. He said he visited his brother Sunday and found him missing a tooth and with cigarette burns on his ears. He also said his brother told him that jailers also doused him with cold water while he was naked.

“When I saw him yesterday, there were bruises on his face and body. He told me that they used an iron bar to hit him when they took him out of the press conference room. He told me that he began screaming and thought all those at the press conference would have heard his voice,” Uday al-Zeidi told AP Television News.

The investigating judge has said the journalist was beaten around the face when he was wrestled to the ground after throwing the shoes at Bush on Dec. 14 .

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