BAGHDAD - A judge announced a probe yesterday into the beating and bruising of an Iraqi journalist's face moments after he hurled his shoes at President Bush and said investigators destroyed the shoes in their search for explosives.
The statement by Dhia al-Kinani, the investigating judge, was the first official word that Muntadhar al-Zeidi was hurt after his outburst at a news conference by Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. According to the judge, Zeidi suffered a bruised face and eyes.
Zeidi has been in custody since the Sunday attack and has not been seen since by relatives or a lawyer.
One of his brothers, Uday, alleged yesterday that the isolation indicates he was abused.
"Until now, neither an attorney nor anyone from his family has seen him, and this is clear evidence that Muntadhar was under intense torture," he said at a demonstration by about 20 family members just outside the Green Zone. "The investigation process is now under way in mysterious circumstances."
Zeidi was wrestled to the ground seconds after throwing his shoes, and the judge said videotape of the scuffle would be studied carefully.
The journalist "was beaten in the news conference, and we will watch the tape and write an official letter asking for the names of those who assaulted him," the judge said.
He said Zeidi could choose not to pursue charges related to the beating; he did not say why he decided to open an investigation.
Zeidi was not the only person who ended up with a bruised eye. White House press secretary Dana Perino suffered an eye injury when she was hit in the face with a microphone during the melee.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said yesterday that the treatment of Zeidi was a matter for Iraqi authorities to deal with.
"Certainly, nobody wants anybody to be mistreated while they're in custody," he said. "I can't attest to these allegations, however."
Zeidi's case has become a rallying point among opponents of the U.S. invasion and military presence in Iraq.
Despite widespread sympathy for Zeidi among Iraqis, Kinani said the case could not be dropped, though he said that neither Bush nor Maliki had sought charges. Maliki was standing next to Bush at the time of the attack.
Also yesterday, Iraqi authorities released without charge the nearly two dozen security officials who had been accused this week of conspiring to revive Saddam Hussein's banned political party, the interior minister said.
Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani said that an investigating judge ordered the officials released "because they are innocent" and that there was no evidence that they attempted to restore the Baath party, whose exiled leaders staunchly oppose the current government.
He said that 19 were freed from custody and that charges were to be dismissed against the remaining four who were not in custody.
Earlier in the day, Bolani told reporters that the charges were politically motivated by those trying to undermine the Interior Ministry.
The release came shortly after Iraqi officials began playing down the arrests of the officials from Iraq's three major security ministries and dismissing reports that they were believed to have been planning a coup.