BAGHDAD - The jailed journalist who threw his shoes at US President George W. Bush has asked for a pardon for what he described as "an ugly act," a spokesman for Iraq's prime minister said Thursday.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for an Iraqi-owned television station based in Cairo, Egypt, could face two years imprisonment for insulting a foreign leader. He remained in custody Thursday night.
"It is too late to reverse the big and ugly act that I perpetrated," al-Zeidi wrote in a letter delivered to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, according to the prime minister's spokesman.
The spokesman, Yassin Majid, said that al-Zeidi went on in the letter to recall an interview he conducted with the prime minister in 2005 when al-Maliki invited him into his home, saying: "Come in, it is your home too."
"So I ask for your pardon," al-Zeidi wrote, Majid said.
Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani, can issue pardon if recommended by the prime minister, except for certain offenses including international crimes, according to Iraq's constitution.
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Iraqi officials had said al-Zeidi would probably be charged with insulting a foreign leader, a relatively minor offense.
White House press secretary Dana Perino said Thursday that she'd seen reports that al-Zeidi had apologized for what he called an ugly incident. She said she did not know whether the president had been told of the report.
"The president harbors no hard feelings about it, and the Iraqis have a process that they'll follow," Perino said. "But he did urge them not to overreact, because he was not bothered by the incident, although it's not appropriate for people to throw shoes at a press conference, at any leader."
Perino suffered a bruised eye in the melee that followed the attack.
"What happened to me was just an accident in the melee. It's not, I'm not bothered by it. It's not all that pretty," she said referring to her bruise, "but I'm not worried about it."
Al-Maliki was standing next to Bush at the Sunday news conference when the journalist threw his shoes and shouted at Bush in Arabic, "This is your farewell kiss, you dog! This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."
Al-Zeidi was tackled to the ground by Iraqi and US security after throwing his shoes at Bush, who o deftly ducked.
An investigative judge visited al-Zeidi in his jail cell earlier this week and the family was told to return to court next week, according to the journalist's brother, Dhargham al-Zeidi.
Dhargham al-Zeidi claims his brother was severely beaten after being taken into custody.
However, Iraqi officials and another brother deny the journalist suffered severe injuries.
Thousands took to the streets in Iraq to protest al-Zeidi's arrest, and his actions were heralded across the Arab world as news stations repeatedly showed footage of the shoe-throwing incident.
Iraq's parliament erupted into chaos Wednesday when lawmakers argued over the jailing of al-Zeidi and the hot-tempered parliament speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, said he was resigning.
It is unclear if al-Mashhadani, who has a history of erratic behavior and threatening to step down from his role as speaker, intended to actually leave his post. But he appeared at the legislature on Thursday.