December 22, 2008
The Iraqi journalist thrust to instant fame when he threw his shoes at US President George W. Bush will go on trial this month on charges that carry up to 15 years in jail, a judge said on Monday.
Investigating judge Dhiya al-Kenani rejected new allegations by the journalist’s family that he had been tortured in custody that were levelled after a brother was allowed a first prison visit.
“The investigation phase is over and the case has been transferred to the Central Criminal Court,” Kenani said. “The trial will start on Wednesday, December 31.”
Muntazer al-Zaidi stands accused of “aggression against a foreign head of state during an official visit,” an offence that carries a prison term of between five and 15 years under Iraqi law.
But the court could convict him of the lesser charge of an “attempted aggression” which carries a prison term of one to five years.
Kenani confirmed that Zaidi’s lawyer had lodged a complaint over his treatment and that a letter would be sent to the office of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to request that security guards be brought to justice.
One of Zaidi’s brothers, Uday, told AFP he had been able to visit him in custody for the first time on Sunday and charged that the journalist had been tortured by his captors to force him to sign a statement.
“I met my brother for around an hour. He has been tortured while in detention for 36 hours continuously. He has been hit with iron rods and cables,” the brother said.