The Iraqi journalist jailed since throwing his shoes at President George W. Bush got a visit from his brother Friday and a birthday party from his guards as he turned 30.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who has gained cult status for his bizarre protest, is in good shape but has been denied access to his lawyer, relatives said after his brother Maitham visited him for two hours in his detention cell in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone.
Al-Zeidi has been in custody since the Dec. 14 outburst at Bush’s joint news conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Thousands demonstrated for al-Zeidi’s release and hailed his gesture.
But concern was raised about his welfare after allegations that he had been severely beaten and tortured in detention.
Maitham al-Zeidi was not available to comment on the visit, but another brother, Dhargham, told the Associated Press that he was told the wounds had healed.
Al-Zeidi had been due to face a trial in December on a charge of assaulting a foreign leader. But an appellate court is considering a motion to reduce the charges to simply insulting Bush.
Jail meted in theft of rare-book pages
A wealthy U.S. businessman with a passion for books about the Middle East was sentenced to two years in jail Friday for stealing pages from rare texts at two of Britain’s most venerable libraries.
Farhad Hakimzadeh sneaked a scalpel into London’s British Library to surgically remove leaves from books, according to library staff. He used the pilfered pages to replace lower-quality parts of his own copies of the works.
Judge Peter Ader at London’s Wood Green Crown Court said Hakimzadeh, the Harvard-educated director of an Iranian cultural organization and a published author, must have known the damage he was causing.
Hakimzadeh targeted books at the British Library and Oxford’s Bodleian Library that dealt with Europe’s interaction with the Middle East. Investigators tracing his activities found damage to some 150 books that date as far back as the 16th century.
Court reverses Aleman conviction
The Supreme Court overturned former President Arnoldo Aleman’s conviction and 20-year prison sentence for money laundering on Friday, ending a long-running legal saga that has been colored by Nicaragua’s political landscape.
The ruling cannot be appealed and definitively frees Aleman, who has spent most of the time under house arrest since being convicted of money laundering and embezzlement in 2003.
The four justices who voted to absolve Aleman of the charges are all linked to his Liberal Constitutionalist Party.
The two justices aligned with the governing Sandinista party, Rafael Solis and Armengol Cuadra, heatedly opposed overturning the conviction.