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Iraqi Who Threw Shoes at Bush Seeks Swiss Asylum

The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at US President Bush last December claims he was tortured in detention at a Baghdad prison, which are grounds for seeking asylum in Switzerland.

US President George Bush ducks shoe attack at a news conference in Baghdad in mid-December

Bush was unharmed from the shoe attack, regarded as a deep insult in the Muslim world.

An Iraqi journalist who made world headlines after throwing his shoes at US President George W. Bush at a press conference in mid-December, wants to apply for political asylum in Switzerland, his lawyer said on Monday.

Muntazer al-Zaidi, 29, has been held in detention in Iraq awaiting trial since the act, which is regarded as a deep insult in the Arab world. Bush, who had led the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, was able to duck the shoes being thrown and was unharmed.

Al-Zaidi's lawyer, Mauro Poggia, confirmed a report in the Swiss daily La Tribune de Geneve that his client would submit an asylum application to the Foreign Ministry in Bern this week.

The lawyer said he had been approached by Al-Zaidi's family through the International Committee of the Red Cross and sought asylum on grounds that he feared that his life would be in danger if he were to remain in Iraq.

The lawyer said al-Zaidi had suffered injuries to his eye, broken ribs and internal bleeding in the Baghdad prison. "Even if many Iraqis support his act, he is at the mercy of all kinds of extremists..." he said. "His life could become hell in his own country."

The trial of Al-Zaidi, who never issued an apology, was postponed at the end of last year over a discussion of whether he should be accused of insulting Bush or charged with assault.

Al-Zaidi is due to stand trial in Iraq for "aggression" and faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Whereas if he were granted political asylum in Switzerland, he could continue working as a journalist, according to La Tribune.