Galloway accuses lawyer of labelling him anti-Semitic

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The Independent Online

George Galloway's libel action against The Daily Telegraph degenerated into bitter and angry confrontation yesterday after the MP accused the newspaper's barrister of trying to label him anti-Semitic.

George Galloway's libel action against The Daily Telegraph degenerated into bitter and angry confrontation yesterday after the MP accused the newspaper's barrister of trying to label him anti-Semitic.

James Price QC, counsel for the Telegraph, was forced to withdraw a suggestion that Mr Galloway had referred to Barbara Amiel, the wife of Lord Black, the former owner of the newspaper, as Jewish in a letter to raise funds for his lawsuit. The MP exploded with anger when it was put to him that he believed the Telegraph opposed his views on the Middle East because Ms Amiel was Jewish.

To a packed High Court, Mr Galloway retorted: "If you can libel someone in court ... That is a very serious libel. That is a clear accusation of anti-Semitism against me and I demand that you withdraw it."

Under cross-examination on the second day of the case into the Telegraph's allegations in April 2003 that Mr Galloway was in the secret pay of Saddam Hussein, Mr Price asked the MP for Glasgow Kelvin to look at a letter "in which you are seeking to raise funds for this lawsuit". In it, he said, he had described Lord and Lady Black as "two of Sharon's Israel's most vociferous supporters".

His voice raised, Mr Galloway told the court: "This is an outrage. This letter does not mention the word Jewish." Mr Price denied he had implied Mr Galloway was anti-Semitic. Mr Galloway thundered: "You said that in this letter I referred to Lady Black as being Jewish. It's a lie, a lie, a lie." Mr Galloway said: "I referred to both Lord and Lady Black as being two of Sharon's Israel's most vociferous supporters for the very simple fact that they are and they themselves would boast to that effect."

Mr Galloway was shown a video clip of his January 1994 meeting with Saddam in which he heaped praise on the dictator. The court was also shown the anti-war campaigner's 2002 account in The Mail on Sunday of meeting the Iraqi leader.

Mr Price suggested it was possible to conclude from this evidence that he was an "apologist" for the dictator. Mr Galloway replied: "You can throw the epithet apologist at me and I will go on denying it."

In later evidence the Telegraph foreign correspondent David Blair said he was "completely satisfied" that documents which the newspaper says provided the basis for the articles allegedly linking Mr Galloway to Saddam Hussein were genuine. Mr Blair said it was not "plausible" that the papers he found in the burnt-out shell of the Iraqi foreign ministry were forged or doctored.

Under cross-examination by Mr Price, Mr Blair said the documents included an intelligence memorandum mentioning Mr Galloway's Mariam Campaign and a letter from Tariq Aziz referring to the MP's "work programme" for 2000. Also among the documents was a letter allegedly signed by Mr Galloway. Mr Blair said it would have had to have been an "extraordinarily elaborate exercise" to forge the documents.

The newspaper is claiming qualified privilege under the so-called Reynolds defence, claiming it was responsible journalism and in the public interest to publish the story based on the documents found.

The case continues.