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Shoe-throwing journalist has his sentence cut

IRAQ'S highest court reduced the prison sentence yesterday for an Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at former United States President George W. Bush from three years to one, a court spokesman said.

Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar, the spokesman, said the decision was taken because the journalist had no prior criminal history.

The Federal Appeals Court ruled on the defense's appeal, which cited an Iraqi law stipulating a maximum sentence of two years for publicly insulting a visiting foreign leader.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi was sentenced to three years in March after pleading not guilty to a charge of assaulting a foreign leader. He described his action as a "natural response to the occupation."

The journalist's act, during Bush's last visit to Iraq as president, turned the 30-year-old reporter into a folk hero across the Arab world, where the former US president is reviled for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Defense attorneys have long argued that al-Zeidi's act was an expression of freedom and not a crime.

But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has had little sympathy for the journalist, saying the incident was more than just an insult. He described it as an assault on a visiting head of state.

"We welcome this fair decision that shows the independence and the integrity of the Iraqi judiciary system," said another al-Zeidi's attorney, Yahya al-Ittabi.

The news came as a surprise to al-Zeidi's family, who called it "a victory for the Iraqi people."


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