The trial of a journalist who has been hailed as a hero in the Arab world after throwing his shoes at President George W. Bush was postponed on Tuesday pending a review of the case by a higher court, a spokesman for Iraq's Higher Judicial Council said.
The trial of Muntadhar al-Zeidi was to begin Wednesday on charges of assaulting a foreign leader, which his defense team said carried a maximum sentence of 15 years. But court spokesman Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar said that the trial was been postponed pending an appellate court ruling on what charges the journalist should face.
Bayrkdar said the defense team was seeking a lesser charge. Two of his lawyers said they want a reduced charge of insulting a foreign leader — which carries a maximum sentence of three years.
"There is a difference between assault and insult, al-Zeidi wanted to express his objection to the occupation. So the case is within context of an insult and not an intention to kill," his lawyer Diaa al-Saadi told Associated Press Television News.
If the appellate court decides to reduce the charges, then al-Saadi said al-Zeidi could be released on bail. It was unclear when the appellate court would issue its ruling.
Al-Zeidi threw his shoes at Bush during a Dec. 14 joint news conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The gesture of contempt for the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq made al-Zeidi a folk hero in Iraq and thousands of people have demonstrated for his release.