Sarwar's life `under threat'

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AN ELECTION rival of Mohammed Sarwar warned the newly elected MP that his life and those of his children were in danger and offered his services as a bodyguard, a court was told yesterday.

The rival, Badar Islam, a former professional cricketer and gambler, also allegedly disclosed a plot to plant drugs in one of Mr Sarwar's cash- and-carry warehouses.

Mr Sarwar, taking the witness stand on the 30th day of his trial in Edinburgh, also describedhate mail received in the wake of stories linking him to voter fraud. He was particularly upset by a photo-montage with pictures of himself and his wife with guns pointing at their heads. Adorned by swastikas, it threatened "hands off whites or die". Mr Sarwar told the High Court jury: "I was upset and worried about the safety of my children and my wife." One of his sons had opened the letter.

Mr Sarwar reported it to the police but thought it "strange" when officers began by fingerprinting himself and his family. Strathclyde fraud squad was already investigating a rash of late applications to vote in Govan.

On Monday the MP was acquitted of fraud, relating to the false addition of four names to the electoral register, and yesterday he was cleared of understating his election expenses.

Mr Sarwar denies two remaining charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice. These allege he paid a pounds 5,000 bribe to Mr Islam to blame two other fringe candidates for the voter irregularities and conspired to pretend it was a loan.

Mr Sarwar also revealed that in 1996 he was attacked and had his ankle broken. But he did not tell police for fear of embarrassing Labour at the time of his bitter selection battle for Govan. The next year, in a meeting at Glasgow airport 10 days after his election, Mr Islam said he knew who was responsible, Mr Sarwar said. "He told me, `Your life is in real danger, your children's lives are in real danger. You should employ me as a bodyguard'."

The case continues.