20 Feb 2009

Bush's 'icy smile' enraged Iraq shoe-thrower

9:19 am on 20 February 2009

The Iraqi who hurled his shoes at former US president George Bush has told a court he had videotaped himself in the past practising the Arab insult to use against the president whose "icy smile" had filled him with uncontrollable rage.

Television reporter Muntadar al-Zaidi has gone on trial in Baghdad charged with assaulting a foreign leader and faces a maximum sentence of 15 years.

He achieved global notoriety when throwing his shoes and calling Mr Bush a dog. His actions were celebrated across the Arab world.

Mr Zaidi said on Thursday at the start of his trial that he took a recording of his shoe-throwing training two years ago and had hoped to accost Mr Bush in Jordan but this did not take place.

However, Mr Zaidi insisted he had not planned to attack Bush when he did.

Instead, he said, the president's smile as he talked about achievements in Iraq had made him think of "the killing of more than a million Iraqis, the disrespect for the sanctity of the mosques and houses, the rapes of women", and enraged him.

Muntadar al-Zaidi's lawyers argue that he had been expressing his opposition to the US presence in Iraq and that Mr Bush had never been in serious danger.

Mr Bush nimbly ducked out of the way of the first shoe and made light of the incident afterwards. The second shoe also missed.

The trial had barely begun at Iraq's Central Criminal Court in the heavily fortified Green Zone before the judges postponed proceedings until 12 March so it could be determined whether Mr Bush was truly on an "official" visit to Iraq as a head of state.

The court will also consider an appeal by the defence team to change the charges against Mr Zaidi once the trial is underway. The lesser charge would incur a maximum sentence of two years.