MICHELE NORRIS, host:
The Iraqi man who threw his shoes at former President Bush had his day in court today. The Baghdad television reporter is charged with assaulting a foreign leader. He told the court he was trying to restore some Iraqi dignity after the U.S.-led occupation. His trial has been adjourned while the court considers a key defense claim - that President Bush was not an official guest of the Iraqi government.
NPR's Corey Flintoff is in Baghdad.
COREY FLINTOFF: Muntadhar al-Zaidi isn't denying that he threw both his shoes at President Bush as the American leader was giving a joint news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. And that would be a hard claim to make, given that videos of the December 14th incident was broadcasted worldwide, making Zaidi a folk hero in many Arab countries.
Instead, Zaidi told the court that he was enraged by the fact that the American president spoke of his victories and achievements in Iraq with no apparent consideration for the thousands of Iraqis who were killed, injured and displaced by the war.
At the moment he threw the first shoe, Zaidi said, I saw no one but Bush. And I was feeling that the blood of innocent people was boiling in me. Zaidi claims that he was badly beaten by Iraqi security guards during his arrest and later tortured with electric shocks in jail.
Zaidi's chief defense lawyer, the head of the Iraqi Bar Association, says his client was making a legitimate expression of free speech when he threw the shoes, delivering one of the most humiliating insult in traditional Arab culture. Zaidi himself claims that he wasn't attacking a guest of the Iraqi government because the American president was the commander of an occupying force and couldn't be regarded as a guest on soil that he controlled.
He also says that President Bush's visit, which was unannounced for security reasons, shows that he came to Iraq suddenly without a government invitation. The court adjourned until March 12th while the judges investigate that claim.
Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Baghdad.
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