A Baghdad court has sentenced the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former U.S. President George W. Bush to three years in prison.
The sentence sparked outrage by supporters of Muntazer al-Zaidi, who pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of assaulting a foreign leader.
His lawyers say they will appeal the verdict. Zaidi had faced up to 15 years in prison on charges of assaulting a foreign leader.
Zaidi told the court Thursday that his action was a natural response and that he did what any Iraqi would have done. In a court appearance last month, the journalist said the president's talk of "victory," combined with what Zaidi called his spiritless smile, proved too much after years of war and destruction following the U.S.-led invasion.
The head of rights group Reporters Without Borders, Jean-François Julliard, told VOA Kurdish Service Zaidi's actions did not justify a prison term.
Supporters in Baghdad said the verdict was politically motivated.
Zaidi became an instant hero to many throughout the Muslim world, thousands of whom took to the streets holding aloft shoes in demonstrations of support.
His action also spawned copycat shoe-throwings, including last month's incident involving Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
Zaidi has been in Iraqi custody since he hurled shoes at Mr. Bush during a joint news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in December.
A judge had postponed the trial in February to determine if Mr. Bush was on an official visit during the December incident. Zaidi's lawyers had argued that Mr. Bush's visit to Iraq was unannounced.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.