Ashdown warned of smear campaign

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The Independent Online

Paddy Ashdown has been warned that he could be the target of a smear campaign in a court hearing later this week as part of a vendetta against the Liberal Democrat leader.

Mr Ashdown, whose car was firebombed next to his home on Friday, has been told the smears could be aired, under the protection of court proceedings, in the case of a 51-year-old Yeovil man accused of a street assault against him in his constituency.

Opponents of Mr Ashdown have warned that his name will be linked to a former massage parlour in the town. It is known Mr Ashdown emphatically denies the allegations.

The former owner of the massage parlour was jailed for six months for living off immoral earnings. City Girl Massage and Relaxation parlour was above a boutique six doors from Yeovil's Liberal Club until it was closed by police in 1994.

The Liberal Democrat leader, who is the MP for Yeovil, has been subjected to a campaign of intimidation after confronting criminals in town for racist attacks on Asians.

Three men from Yeovil, aged between 18 and 23, were released on bail after being questioned about the firebombing.

The hearing starts before Yeovil magistrates on Thursday and involves a man accused of affray and possessing an offensive weapon. It relates to an incident in November when a knife was said to have been held against the MP's throat when he investigating alleged race attacks on restaurants.

The accused man, who is being held in custody, is believed to want to ask to have reporting restrictions lifted at the committal proceeding.