Iraqi shoe thrower trial adjourned



 
Iraqi journalist Muntazer Al-Zaidi - imprisoned for throwing his shoe at George W. Bush during a press conference in December - is in court facing charges of "assaulting a foreign leader." If convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
 
By ALEXANDRA SANDELS
 
LATUFMUNTAZER
"On behalf of journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi, Bush shoe-thrower and hero of the Iraqi people," from cartoonist Carlos Latuff's blog: www.tales-of-iraq.blogspot.com © Carlos Latuff

MENASSAT (BEIRUT)-  The trial of Iraqi TV journalist Muntazer Al-Zaidi who threw his shoes at former US-President George Bush at a news conference in Baghdad last year has been delayed until March.

Al-Zaidi is accused of “assaulting a foreign leader” and could face a jail sentence of up to 15 years if convicted. 

The trial will resume on March 12 while the court requests the Cabinet for a clarification on whether Bush's visit was official or not.

Trying a patriot

Meanwhile, Al-Zaidi's defense team has filed an appeal asking for the charge against their client to be changed from "assaulting" to "insulting."

Under Iraqi law, anyone who assaults a foreign head of state is to be punished by imprisonment, with the court deciding the length of the sentence.

Insulting a foreign head of state, on the other hand, is punishable by two years in imprisonment and a fine.

Mr Zaidi's lawyers have previously emphasized that their client only expressed his opposition to the US presence in Iraq and that ex-President Bush had never been in any real danger.

"Have you ever heard of anyone being killed by a shoe? In Europe, they throw eggs and rotten tomatoes to insult. In Iraq, throwing a shoe is a symbol of disrespect?" lawyer Dhiaa al-Saadi told Reuters in December 2008.

Appearing before the Central Criminal of Court in Baghdad on Wednesday with the Iraqi flag draped over his shoulders, Al-Zaidi entered the courthouse to loud applause and cheers, with one woman reportedly shouting “You Hero!”

Re-cap

Al-Zaidi threw both of his shoes at President Bush during a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad on December 15, shouting that Bush was "a dog" and the shoes were "a farewell kiss" from those who had been killed in Iraq.

Neither of Al-Zaidi’s shoes hit Bush president and Al-Zaidi was quickly wrestled to the ground by people and security personnel in the room immediately after his shoe stunt.

He has been held in custody ever since.

While Al-Zaidi’s shoe number has been officially condemned by the Iraqi government as "shameful", the journalist has been hailed by thousands in the Arab world who call him a hero.

Al- Zaidi’s trial was supposed to have started in December, but ended up being postponed.

(Sources: BBC. CNN, and agencies)