Court proceedings have begun for the Iraqi journalist who threw shoes at then-President George W. Bush late last year. Dozens of supporters gathered at the court in western Baghdad Thursday to praise Muntadhar al-Zeidi and demand his release. Al-Zeidi has been in custody since the December 14 outburst at Bush's joint news conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The defense argues the charge of assaulting a foreign leader is too harsh because it carries a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment. Al-Zeidi was transformed into a cult figure across the Muslim world where thousands hailed him as a hero and demanded his release for what they considered a justified act of patriotism.