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Iraqi Shoe-Thrower Denied Access To Lawyer

The Iraqi journalist detained after throwing his shoes at President George W. Bush is in good shape and was allowed to meet with his brother on Friday, although he has been denied access to his lawyer, his family said.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who gained widespread support in Iraq and other Muslim countries when he hurled both his shoes at Bush during a news conference, met with his brother Maitham for two hours in his cell at a detention center in the Green Zone.

Al-Zeidi has been in custody since the Dec. 14 outburst at Bush's joint news conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The case's investigating judge has said the journalist was struck about the face and eyes, apparently by security agents who helped wrestle him to the ground.

His relatives have alleged he was beaten more severely and tortured in detention.

One of the journalist's other brothers, Dhargham, was not at the Friday meeting but described what happened between his brother Maitham, who he said was not discussing the incident at this time with the media, and their imprisoned journalist brother.

He said Muntadhar al-Zeidi turned 30 on Thursday.

"Muntadhar was in a good shape, his wounds were healed and his morale was high. Yesterday was his birthday and some patriotic officers there organized a party for him and brought birthday cake," his other brother Dhargham told The Associated Press.

The case became a focus for Iraqis and others in the Muslim world who resent the U.S. invasion and occupation, and thousands took to the streets to demonstrate for al-Zeidi's release.

His brother said information about the support had been kept from the journalist.

"Some officers told him that half of the Iraqis were against him. But he was very happy when he heard that all the Iraqis support him. He even cried when he heard that there were even demonstrations on his behalf in the United States," Dhargham al-Zeidi said.

The visit followed a New York Times report that al-Zeidi has only been allowed two visitors since his detention.

Defense lawyer Dhia al-Saadi told AP he has only been allowed to meet his client once.

"I submitted many petitions to the Judge of the case and I expect to meet Muntadhar next week," he said.

Al-Zeidi has been charged with assaulting a foreign leader, but an appellate court is considering a motion to reduce the charges to simply insulting President Bush.

The brother who met with Muntadhar was taken by bus to the detention center and two army officers supervised the meeting.

The journalist is being held alone in a comfortable room with a bed and a TV set, his brother said. "He is being visited frequently by doctors. The food is very good," the brother added.

Al-Zeidi stood by his action against Mr. Bush. He stressed that he meant no offense to the Iraqi prime minister but didn't want to miss his chance to send a message to the U.S. president, the brother said.

"He said he could not wait until al-Maliki left the room to throw his shoes because then Bush would also leave and that historic opportunity would be lost," he said.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi actually feared he would be killed by guards after throwing his shoes and read his last prayers before going to the news conference, his brother said.

"So for him it does not matter for how long he would be imprisoned ... because the important thing is that he restored the honor of the Iraqi people," his brother said.