Journalist jailed for three years for George Bush assault

The journalist who threw his shoes at George Bush over the war in Iraq has been sentenced to three years in prison for assaulting a foreign leader.

The decision against Muntadhar al-Zeidi followed a short trial earlier in which the 30-year-old journalist pleaded not guilty to assault charges.

The Iraqi TV journalist has been in custody since he hurled shoes at the then-US president during a joint news conference with Iraqi prime minister Nouri Maliki in December.

The defence argued that the charge was not applicable because Bush was not in Baghdad on an official visit, having arrived unannounced and without an invitation.

The judge said the prime minister’s office responded that it was an official visit.

Al-Zeidi had been due to face a trial in December on a charge of assaulting a foreign leader but his defence team won a delay. The defence wanted to reduce the charges to simply insulting Bush.

British journalists and peace activists wrote to the US Embassy in London shortly before Christmas, calling for the release of Al-Zaidi, a correspondent for the Iraqi-owned al-Baghdadiya TV television station based in Cairo.

The gesture of contempt for the US invasion and occupation of Iraq made al-Zeidi a folk hero in Iraq and thousands of people have demonstrated for his release worldwide.

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