[JURIST] The Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI) [establishment order, PDF] on Sunday set a Feb. 19 trial date for the Iraqi journalist accused of throwing his shoes at former US President George W. Bush. The court allowed the charge of assaulting a foreign leader, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, to stand, despite defendant Muntader al-Zaidi's [BBC profile] attempt to have it reduced to attempted aggression. Defense lawyer Dhiya al-Saadi said he will try to have the charges dismissed [AFP report] and emphasized that his client was trying to insult, not injure, the US president. The announcement of a trial date comes after an official investigation, which initially led to a trial postponement [JURIST reports].
Those opposed to al-Zaidi's trial have criticized the CCCI for failing to meet international standards of fairness and due process [HRW report], and have alleged that al-Zaidi was beaten while in custody. There have also been allegations that a purported apology letter from al-Zaidi had been forged [CBS report]. The shoe-throwing incident occurred at a Dec. 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.