Babylon & Beyond

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IRAQ: Bush, the shoe thrower and the judge

December 30, 2008 |  1:41 pm

Iraq’s highest judiciary panel postponed the trial of journalist Muntather Zaidi, who tossed his shoes at President Bush on his visit to Baghdad this month. Zaidi's ill-fated throw catapulted him to notoriety as the man who stood up to Bush, making him a folk hero to some and a hooligan to others.

Iraq’s Supreme Judiciary Council said it had delayed the trial so an appeals court could consider Zaidi’s lawyers’ motion that the journalist should face less than Iraq’s maximum 15-year prison sentence for assaulting a foreign leader. Zaidi’s trial had been due to start Wednesday.

“They wanted to have his trial ... before the New Year and Bush’s last day in the White House. That is what those politicians wanted. Thank God the judge was neutral,” Zaidi’s brother Thirgam told The Times.

Zaidi's siblings had previously accused the government of allowing the journalist to be beaten in jail. He worked for the Baghdadiya satellite channel, a station often critical of the Iraqi government. Zaidi has been hailed throughout the Muslim world for trying to hit Bush.

Meanwhile, a debate has emerged about the origin of Zaidi's shoes: Were they Chinese, Turkish or Iraqi? Family members claimed Zaidi’s shoes were from the popular Iraqi footwear manufacturer Alaa Haddad.

But a visit to one of Haddad's stores elicited a defensive response from a shop manager. Aware of the sensitivities surrounding the case, the employee insisted: “His shoes were Turkish, not Iraqi.”

-- Ned Parker, Raheem Salman and Saif Hameed in Baghdad

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