The trial of Muntazer al-Zaidi, the Iraqi man who hurled his shoes at US President George W Bush, will start on 31 December, the judge investigating his case has said.

The journalist stands accused of ‘aggression against a foreign head of state during an official visit’, an offence that carries a prison term of between five and 15 years under Iraqi law.

But the court could convict him of the lesser charge of an ‘attempted aggression’, which carries a prison term of one to five years.

Mr Zaidi, 29, became a hero to many when he threw his shoes at Mr Bush during the US president's surprise visit to Iraq on 14 December - an action considered a grave insult in the Arab world.

He was wrestled to the ground by security guards and is planning to sue over injuries caused, his lawyer said yesterday.

His lawyer had asked that the case against Mr Zaidi be transferred from the central criminal court, which handles terrorism cases, to an ordinary tribunal - but the judge refused.