The Iraqi journalist who became an icon for critics of the U.S.-led invasion when he hurled his shoes at former President George W. Bush went on trial on Thursday, facing up to 15 years in prison.
Muntazer al-Zaidi, whose shoe-throwing protest showed anger to Bush during his final visit to Iraq in December and who also called the former U.S. leader a "dog" -- both insults in the Middle East -- is charged with assaulting a visiting head of state.
Zaidi was handcuffed and surrounded by a pack of security guards when he was brought to Iraq's Central Criminal Court in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone.
Family members waiting for him inside the courthouse ululated wildly as he was brought in and draped an Iraqi flag across his shoulders.
Zaidi has been imprisoned for more than two months and his family complains he was beaten after being pounced on by security guards at Bush's news conference.
The reporter for an Iraqi television station based in Cairo became a hero in much of the Middle East.
Bush, whose support of Israel and decision to occupy Iraq in 2003 to oust Saddam Hussein made him passionately disliked in many parts of the whole Muslim world, nimbly ducked out of the way of the first shoe and made light of the incident afterwards. The second shoe also missed.
Zaidi's defence lawyers lost an appeal to have the charges reduced to insulting Bush, a lesser offence. They argued he could not have truly hurt Bush with a shoe.
Dhiya al-Saadi, one of the lawyers acting for al-Zeidi, said on Wednesday: "He [al-Zeidi] was optimistic and ready to stand in front of the court, as he believes what he did was fair.
"He is counting on his release because he did not try to kill former president Bush and was only expressing his opinion."
Last Mod: 19 Şubat 2009, 17:03