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Shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist faces Feb. 19 trial

BAGHDAD — Iraqi authorities on Sunday set a Feb. 19 trial date for the Iraqi journalist who hurled his loafers at President George W. Bush and narrowly missed him.

Muntathar al Zaidi, a television journalist, remains charged with assaulting a foreign head-of-state, judicial spokesman Abdel Sattar Beyraqdar said. Conviction could lead to a 15-year prison sentence.

Beyraqdar said the trial will be open to the public.

Zaidi captured world attention when he pulled his shoes off during a news conference Dec. 14 and threw one, then the other at Bush during the then president's last official visit to Baghdad.

Bush ducked, and the shoes missed. Zaidi was pulled to ground by another journalist and then pummeled into submission by bodyguards for Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki.

He's been in custody ever since, even as everyday Iraqis declared him a hero for his act. His family claims he's been tortured.

On Sunday, Zaidi's brother, Maithem, said the family will continue to press the Iraqi government to charge Zaidi with a less serious crime. He said he'll visit Zaidi before the trial and will press Zaidi's lawyers to take steps to see that he isn't punished severely.

"If they do nothing, I'll fire them," Maithem Zaidi said.

Zaidi's lawyers could not be reached for comment.

(Daniel is a staff writer for The Miami Herald; Kadhim is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

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