The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes in protest at former U.S. President George W. Bush has been released from prison. 

Muntazer al-Zaidi said he was whipped, beaten and subjected to electric shocks during his first days in Iraqi custody.

Speaking to reporters shortly after his release, the journalist said he now fears for his life at the hands of U.S. intelligence agents.

There was no immediate reaction from either the Iraqi or U.S. government to his charges.

Al-Zaidi, who faced the cameras wrapped in an Iraqi flag, was missing a tooth, but otherwise appeared in good health. He continued to defend his actions, which he said were directed at "the face of a war criminal."

The journalist said it was humiliating to see his homeland put under the boot of a foreign power.   He added that being at a news conference with Mr. Bush last December was an opportunity that he could not waste.

Al-Zaidi, who works for the Cairo-based al-Baghdadiya satellite channel, threw his shoes at Mr. Bush during his final visit to Baghdad as president.  Al-Zaidi yelled that it was a "farewell kiss" and called the U.S. leader a dog.

Mr. Bush ducked and was not hit, and later shrugged off the incident. 

But Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki expressed anger over the incident, considering it an outrage against a guest to the nation.  Other Iraqis echoed that sentiment.

But al-Zaidi argued in court that Mr. Bush did not qualify as a guest.

And for many others, in Iraq and in other nations, the act turned the journalist into an instant folk hero, inspiring rallies, offers of money and marriage, as well as a statue of a bronze shoe.

The journalist says he is not a hero, but rather a man of principle.

Al-Zaidi was initially sentenced to three years behind bars, but the term was later reduced, and he was granted additional time off for good behavior.