Al-Zeidi has become a hero in the Arab world since he hurled his shoes at Bush .

An Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George Bush, the former US president, has had his sentence reduced from three years to one, a court spokesman has said.

The news came as a surprise to Muntadhar al-Zeidi's family, who called it "a victory for the Iraqi people" on Tuesday.

The decision was made as al-Zeidi had no prior criminal record, an official said.

The defence appealed against the original ruling to the Federal Appeals Court citing an Iraqi law stipulating a maximum sentence of only two years for publicly insulting a visiting foreign leader.

A-Zeidi, 30, has become a folk hero across the Arab world since the attack, where Bush is reviled over the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

The shoes narrowly missed Bush, who was addressing a news conference with Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, during the incident last December.

Expression of freedom

Lawyers have long argued that al-Zeidi's act was an expression of freedom and not a crime.

"We think al-Zeidi does not deserve to be imprisoned even for one day," al-Zeidi's chief defence attorney, Diaa al-Saadi, told the Associated Press news agency.

"What he has done falls in the category of freedom of expression and he was trying to express his anti-occupation feelings," Yahya al-Ittabi, another lawyer for al-Zeidi, said, welcoming the court's decision.

He said the fact that the court did not bow to government pressure to uphold the existing sentence, reflected the "independence and the integrity of the Iraqi judiciary system".

Al-Zeidi has been in Iraqi custody since the attack and though he is scheduled to be released in December 2009, his lawyer said he could be free within five months with credit for good behaviour.

Source: Agencies