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Page last updated at 12:02 GMT, Monday, 22 December 2008

Iraq shoe-thrower set for trial

Muntadar al-Zaidi (file image)
Mr Zaidi said his actions were for Iraqi widows and orphans

An Iraqi journalist who flung shoes at US President George W Bush will go on trial on 31 December, his brother and a judge have said.

Muntadar al-Zaidi is accused of "aggression against a foreign head of state" over the 14 December incident.

The 28-year-old, hailed as a hero by some in the Arab world, could face a jail term if convicted.

His brother says he has been abused in detention and plans to file a legal suit over his injuries.

The investigation phase is over and the case has been transferred to the Central Criminal Court
Judge Dhiya al-Kenani

The journalist hurled the shoes - a grave insult in the Arab world - at Mr Bush as he addressed a news conference in Baghdad, during a surprise one-day visit.

Calling the US president a "dog", he said he was acting for "widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq".

'Sales spike'

Investigating Judge Dhiya al-Kenani told the AFP news agency that the trial date had been set for the last day of 2008.

"The investigation phase is over and the case has been transferred to the Central Criminal Court," he said.

Aggression against a head of state carries a prison term of between five and 15 years - but media reports said Mr al-Zaidi could eventually face a lesser charge of "attempted aggression".

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President Bush ducks as the shoes are thrown during a news conference

The journalist's brother, Uday al-Zaidi, confirmed the court date, but made accusations against the Iraqi authorities of beating and abusing his brother.

His brother had lost a tooth and had burns on his ears, he told the Associated Press news agency after visiting him in detention on Sunday. He was planning to sue, he told the agency.

Mr Kenani rejected the allegations of abuse. The only marks on Mr al-Zaidi's face were bruises, the judge said, and they were small ones received during the arrest, he told AFP.

Mr Bush himself has sought to play down the incident. Last week his spokeswoman said he had "no hard feelings" over the matter.

But it has been gleefully seized upon by anti-Bush protesters around the world - and is reported to have boosted the business of one Turkish shoe-maker.

According to the New York Times, sales at the Istanbul-based Baydan Shoe Company have spiked after it claimed to have made the footwear hurled at Mr Bush.

Ramazan Baydan told the newspaper it was definitely his shoe, and boasted of new orders coming in from across the world.

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