World

Trial of shoe-throwing journalist temporarily suspended

An Iraqi court has put on hold the trial of an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush.

An Iraqi court has put on hold the trial of an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush.

The trial of Muntadhar al-Zeidi was to begin Wednesday on charges of assaulting a foreign leader. If convicted, al-Zeidi could face a 15-year prison sentence.

But court spokesman Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar said Tuesday that the trial has been postponed indefinitely pending a high court ruling on what charges the journalist should face.

Zaidi's lawyer, Dhiaa al-Saadi, told Reuters the defence was appealing to have the charge reduced to insulting a visiting head of state. That charge carries a two-year maximum sentence,

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

Al-Zeidi could face two years in jail for insulting a foreign leader after he hurled his shoes at Bush during a Dec. 14 news conference in Baghdad and called him a dog. Bush dodged both pieces of footwear.

Thousands of Iraqis have protested al-Zeidi's arrest and called for his release. 

Iraq's prime minister's office has said al-Zeidi wrote a letter about the incident, calling it a "big and ugly act" and asking the government for a pardon.

But al-Zeidi's brother has claimed that he was forced to write the letter and that he does not regret the incident.

Uday al-Zeidi also said his brother has been abused in prison. Officials have denied the claim but the investigating judge in the case has said that al-Zeidi was beaten during his arrest.

With files from the Associated Press