Aitken suffers minor stroke

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The Independent Online
THE FORMER cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken has suffered a stroke as he awaits sentencing for perjury and perverting the course of justice, it emerged yesterday.

News of the former chief secretary to the Treasury's illness came as the man accused of being his criminal accomplice had charges against him dropped at the Old Bailey .

Said Ayas had been jointly charged with Aitken with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice during Aitken's failed libel action last year against Granada Television and The Guardian. Mr Ayas had given a 61-page sworn statement to the High Court about the former minister's stay at the Paris Ritz hotel, which proved to be false.

But yesterday David Waters, for the Crown Prosecution Service, told the judge it would be wrong to continue proceedings against Mr Ayas. He was formally found not guilty and his legal costs, estimated to be about pounds 70,000, will be paid out of public funds.

Aitken, who will be sentenced on 8 June, suffered a "minor stroke" after influenza that developed into bronchial pneumonia, said his solicitors. This had resulted in the bursting of veins and blood vessels behind one of his eyes, leaving him "with severe loss of vision".Michael Coleman, of the law firm Harkavys, said in a statement: "Mr Aitken is still convalescing but it is anticipated and hoped by those close to him that he will make a full recovery."

Aitken's mother, Lady Aitken, said: "It is apparently the kind of thing people under a lot of stress suffer from ... This is not an attempt by him to get out of a prison sentence or anything."