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Iraq court postpones trial of shoe-throwing journalist

[JURIST] Judge Abdul-Amir al-Rubaie of the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI) [establishment order, PDF] on Thursday postponed the trial of Muntadar al-Zaidi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], the Iraqi journalist accused of throwing his shoes at former US president George W. Bush [JURIST news archive]. The new trial date is set for March 12. Al-Zaidi's lawyers argued [AP report] that Bush's visit was not official and therefore the charge of assaulting a foreign leader should not apply. The trial was postponed so the court could determine if Bush's visit was official and respond to the defense. Al-Zaidi's appearance in court on Thursday was his first public appearance since his December arrest. He testified to a three-judge panel that his actions were meant to restore Iraqi citizens' pride and that he had been beaten while in custody [JURIST report]. The assault charge holds a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison while a lesser charge of insulting a foreign leader is punishable by up to three years. Al-Zaidi's lawyers have been unsuccessful in having the charge reduced or dismissed.

Al-Zaidi's trial was initially delayed [JURIST report] in December so the court could make a determination of the charges. The trial has been opposed for failing to meet international standards of due process and fairness [HRW report] and has been protested by Iraqis. The shoe-throwing incident occurred at a December 14 joint news conference [transcript] at which Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki [BBC profile] signed a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) [text, PDF; CFR backgrounder] governing the future US military presence in the country.

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