Archer denies dead libel alibi witness lied

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The Independent Online
A BARRISTER who represented Nelson Mandela and the family of Steve Biko has been chosen by Lord Archer to defend him before the Tories' ethics and integrity committee.

In an indication that he intends to fight strongly any attempt to expel him from the party, Sydney Kentridge QC, one of South Africa's leading civil rights lawyers, will accompany Lord Archer at the hearing in the New Year. His decision to hire Mr Kentridge emerged as he denied last night that he had asked theatrical agent Terence Baker to commit perjury in the 1987 Monica Coghlan libel trial. In his first public comments since his resignation as Conservative candidate for mayor of London, Lord Archer said he would defend himself strongly against such "wild allegations".

In a statement issued through his solicitor, he said: "I utterly refute the suggestion that the late Mr Terence Baker committed or was asked to commit perjury on my behalf." He also denied reports about his share dealings, bank accounts and claims that he had paid his friend Michael Stacpoole to prevent Mr Baker giving evidence. "I reiterate that I did not have sexual relations with Monica Coghlan or with any other prostitute. These allegations are baseless and will if necessary also be dealt with by me in the appropriate forum."

Lord Archer's statement was released by his solicitors, Mishcon de Reya. They said the "flood of unfounded and reckless allegations" about Lord Archer had "compelled" him to add to his earlier statement issued on 28 November. They added: "Lord Archer is at present threatened with an inquiry requested by the Daily Star newspaper, a threatened civil action by that newspaper and a hearing before the Ethics and Integrity Committee of the Conservative Party.

"The opportunity has been taken for allegations of the wildest nature to be made in certain newspapers which have seen fit to publish stories supplied to them, for many of which substantial payments have been made."

The peer faces expulsion from the Tory party over his admission that he had tried to persuade another friend, Ted Francis, to lie for him ahead of the libel trial.

Mr Kentridge, who has been dubbed a "super-silk" for his estimated pounds 1m- a-year earnings, made his name in 1977, when he represented the family of Biko, founder of the Black Consciousness Movement, who was killed by police.

Mr Kentridge, 77, also took part in the investigation into the Sharpeville massacre of 1961 and defended Winnie Mandela against kidnapping charges in 1992.

"He's one of the best, that's why Jeffrey's hired him," a friend said last night.

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