Sheridan and his wife begin perjury trial over libel case

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Four years after his £200,000 libel victory against the News of the World over claims that he committed adultery and took part in group sex sessions at a swingers' club, the one-time poster boy of Scottish socialism was back in court yesterday.

This time, however, Tommy Sheridan was not alone in his legal battle but accompanied in the dock by his wife, Gail, a former British Airways air steward.

The black-suited couple denied allegations that they had repeatedly lied under oath in order to win their defamation case against the Sunday newspaper. It is alleged that Mr Sheridan, 46, who appeared in Celebrity Big Brother after he lost his seat in the Scottish Parliament, committed perjury when he denied attending Cupid's Healthclub in Manchester in 1996 and 2002 with the journalist Anvar Khan, with whom it is claimed he had an eight year affair.

During the 2006 libel trail in Edinburgh, the jury accepted Mr Sheridan's suggestion that 10 members of the Scottish Socialist Party he once led had conspired to give false evidence against him. Yesterday, he was also accused of trying to persuade a member of the party to lie for him by challenging the authenticity of detailed minutes taken at an emergency meeting of the party executive in Glasgow in November 2004, where it is alleged he admitted to a "character flaw" and having visited the club.

Mrs Sheridan, also 46, is accused of attempting to cover-up for her husband by giving him a false alibi for a night in June 2002 when it is claimed he and a party colleague were having sex with another woman who had been "flown" in from Birmingham to be with them to take part in "madness" at the Moat House Hotel in the city. It is also alleged that Mr Sheridan had a four-year affair with another party member.

The first day of evidence of what is expected to be a 10-week trial with 200 potential witnesses focused on Mr Sheridan's alleged admission to fellow members of the SSP executive. Party worker Barbara Jane Scott, who was taking the minutes at the impassioned meeting, described how she went to the police in Edinburgh a few days after the conclusion of the libel trial. The 40-year-old said she had acted "to clear my name, because I didn't lie" at the libel trial.

She told the jury that Mr Sheridan had argued that he should not be forced to resign by "enemies of the party" and in the absence of photographic proof must be allowed to fight the allegations. "He said it was a flaw in his character, it was a weakness, but it had only been those two times," she said.