MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel. In Baghdad today, several mortar rounds were fired at the Green Zone while Vice President Joe Biden was visiting there. They did not hit the U.S. Embassy compound, but one landed in a residential area, killing at least two Iraqi civilians. Vice President Biden was meeting with the U.S. ambassador and the top military commander in Iraq, and trying to keep pressure on Iraq's leaders to make political compromises.
BLOCK: Also in Baghdad today, the government released a famous prisoner, the journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush. The Iraqi served nine months of a three-year sentence for assault. Today, he grabbed attention again with charges that he was tortured in prison by Iraqi authorities. NPR's Quil Lawrence has that story.
QUIL LAWRENCE: Muntadhar al-Zeidi returned to a hero's welcome at the Baghdad television station where he was working last December when he covered President Bush's final press conference here. At a short press conference of his own today, Zeidi apologized for breaking journalistic rules. But he had no apology for the American president.
Mr. MUNTADHAR AL-ZEIDI (Journalist): (Foreign language spoken)
LAWRENCE: I saw the chance and I took it, said Zeidi, adding that he had walked through so much destruction and innocent blood with those shoes that he felt it was appropriate to throw them at President Bush, whom he blamed for thousands of innocent deaths since the invasion and during the sectarian and ethnic violence over the past six years.
Mr. AL-ZEIDI: (Foreign language spoken)
LAWRENCE: Zeidi also charged that he had been beaten in prison by high-ranking Iraqi government officials, even as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki claimed to be concerned about the prisoner's well-being. Zeidi claimed he was doused with water in a freezing cold cell during winter and tortured with electric shocks. He said he would announce the names of those who abused him at a later date. At his Baghdad home, family members watched Zeidi's press conference on television while awaiting his return.
(Soundbite of ululating)
LAWRENCE: Family members ululated when they saw him appear looking clean and healthy, though lacking one of his front teeth. Like many here, Zeidi's family consider him a hero who spoke for the entire country in condemning the American occupation. But some in Baghdad said they found Zeidi's conduct reprehensible.
Mr. MOHAMED ALI ABBASS(ph) (Construction Worker): (Foreign language spoken)
LAWRENCE: Mohamed Ali Abbass, a construction worker, says that journalists shouldn't act that way. Abbass says, no one in Iraq wants the Americans here, but if they leave the violence will only be worse. Zeidi said he fears both Iraqi and American forces are after him. His family said he would spend the night in an undisclosed location and then leave the country as soon as possible.
Quil Lawrence, NPR News, Baghdad.
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