BAGHDAD – An Iraqi journalist jailed after hurling his shoes at former President George W. Bush will be released next month after his sentence was reduced for good behavior, his lawyer said Saturday.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi's act during Bush's last visit to Iraq as president turned the 30-year-old reporter into a folk hero across the Arab world amid anger over the 2003 invasion.
He has been in custody since the Dec. 14 outburst, which occurred as Bush was holding a joint news conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
He was initially sentenced to three years after pleading not guilty to assaulting a foreign leader, then the court reduced it to one year because the journalist had no prior criminal history.
Defense attorney Karim al-Shujairi said al-Zeidi will now be released on Sept. 14, three months early.
"We have been informed officially about the court decision," al-Shujairi told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "His release will be a victory for the free and honorable Iraqi media."
Judicial spokesman Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar said he had no immediate information about the release because it was a weekend.
The bizarre act of defiance transformed the obscure reporter from a minor TV station into a national hero to many Iraqis fed up with the nearly six-year U.S. presence here.
The case also drew worldwide attention and became a rallying cry throughout the Muslim world for critics who resent the U.S. invasion and occupation.
Thousands demonstrated for al-Zeidi's release and hailed his gesture, which came in the waning days of the Bush administration. The incident also embarrassed al-Maliki, who was standing next to Bush at the time.
Neither leader was injured, but Bush was forced to duck for cover as the journalist shouted in Arabic: "This is your farewell kiss, you dog! This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."