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Iraq shoe-thrower in court, admits "aggression"

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush appeared before a judge on Tuesday and admitted “aggression against a president”, a judicial spokesman said.

U.S. President George W. Bush (L) ducks after a man threw a shoe at him during a joint statement with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (R) in Baghdad, December 14, 2008. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

TV reporter Muntazer al-Zaidi became an instant sensation in the Arab world when he called Bush a “dog” at a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Sunday and threw his shoes at him.

“Al-Zaidi was brought today before the investigating judge in the presence of a defence lawyer and a prosecutor,” said Abdul Satar Birqadr, spokesman for Iraq’s High Judicial Council. “He admits the action he carried out.”

The court decided to keep Zaidi in custody and, after the judge has completed his investigation, it may send him for trial under a clause in the Iraqi penal code that makes it an offence to try to murder Iraqi or foreign presidents.

The sentence for such a crime could be up to 15 years jail, Birqadr said.

Zaidi’s brother said on Tuesday that the reporter was hit on the head with a rifle butt and had an arm broken in the chaos that broke out after he threw his shoes at Bush and was leapt on by Iraqi security officers and U.S. secret service agents.

Zaidi is in a hospital in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, his brother Maitham al-Zaidi said.

“All that we know is we were contacted yesterday by a person -- we know him -- and he told us that Muntazer was taken on Sunday to Ibn-Sina hospital,” Maitham al-Zaidi said. “He was wounded in the head because he was hit by a rifle butt, and one of his arms was broken.”

The brother declined to identify the source of the information and his comments could not be independently verified. Asked about his remarks, various Iraqi officials denied having responsibility for the case.

Birqadr said he was not personally present during the hearing and so could not confirm that Zaidi was injured.

Writing by Michael Christie; editing by Tim Pearce