The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush appeared before a judge Wednesday but in his jail cell, his brother said, alleging the reporter must have been too seriously injured to appear in a courtroom.

Also Wednesday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced in Baghdad that Britain, the second-largest military presence in Iraq after the United States, will end its mission in Iraq before June 1.

Britain had previously said the 4,000-strong mission would conclude in the early summer, and Brown's statement appeared to accelerate that timetable.

The announcement came on a violent day in Iraq, where police said a double-bombing in eastern Baghdad targeting traffic police left at least 18 people dead and 52 others wounded.

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Meanwhile, the family of Muntadhar al-Zeidi went to the Central Criminal Court expecting to attend a hearing, brother Dhargham said. He added they were told the investigative judge went to see him in jail and that they should return in eight days.

"That means my brother was severely beaten and they fear that his appearance could trigger anger at the court," he added.

Iraqi officials and another brother have denied that the journalist suffered severe injuries after he was wrestled to the floor following the shoe-throwing incident during a press conference by Bush on Sunday.

Al-Zeidi was held for allegedly insulting a foreign leader, a charge that carries a maximum of two years in prison.

Under the Iraqi legal system, the case is given to a judge who investigates the allegation, weighs the evidence and recommends whether to order a trial.

The process can take months, and it is normal for initial hearings to be conducted informally rather than in a formalized setting common in U.S. and British courts.

About 1,500 demonstrators took to the streets Wednesday in the Baghdad Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah to demand his release. Ironically, al-Zeidi was kidnapped in the same neighborhood last year and was freed unharmed a few days later.

"This is a natural reaction to the American acts of tyranny and occupation in Iraq," said demonstrator Khalil al-Obeidi a resident of Azamiyah said.

Shiite lawmaker Bahaa al-Araji said he expected al-Zeidi, who's in his late 20s, to be released on bail in the next few days while the investigative judge considers the case.

Brown arrived here three days after the shoe-throwing incident for a meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other Iraqi officials.

"We have agreed today that the mission will end no later than 31st May," Brown said at a news conference with al-Maliki.

"We thank (British troops) for the efforts they have made for getting rid of dictatorship and terrorism. They have made a lot of sacrifices," al-Maliki said.

Brown also said he and al-Maliki discussed the fate of five Britons who were kidnapped by a Shiite militia a year and a half ago.

The men — information technology consultant Peter Moore and four guards — were seized from the Iraqi Finance Ministry compound in Baghdad in a brazen raid in May 29, 2007.

Little information on them has come since, although a British newspaper reported this summer that the militia said one of the hostages had committed suicide.

"I call for all those who are holding them to let them return to their families immediately and without condition," Brown said.

Britain's withdrawal plans come amid a general improvement of security in Iraq. But severe problems remain, underlined by Wednesday's double bombing.

An Iraqi police official says the first blast Wednesday morning was from a car bomb. Moments later, a roadside bomb went off nearby targeting people rushing to the scene.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.

The U.S. military says a roadside bomb exploded near an American patrol hours earlier in the same area but that there were no deaths or injuries.