Mellor spared appearance as witness in libel action

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DAVID MELLOR, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, was yesterday spared the embarrassment of appearing as a witness in a High Court libel action brought by the woman who paid for a Spanish holiday for him and his family.

Mona Bauwens, 31, whose father is a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, is suing the People over an article published in September 1990 when the Mellors returned from their holiday in Marbella.

The newspaper denies libel, and claims it was legitimate to criticise Mr Mellor for going on holiday with the daughter of a senior PLO figure at the time of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Mrs Bauwens claims the newspaper suggested that she was a 'social leper' because of her father's PLO connections and was not fit to be seen with a government minister.

George Carman QC, for the People, said earlier in the week that he had issued a subpoena for Mr Mellor to attend. But yesterday afternoon he finished examining the last defence witness, and said nothing further to the jury about Mr Mellor.

His final witness, Philip Windsor, reader in International Relations at the London School of Economics and a Middle East specialist, said many individuals within the PLO were opposed to terrorism, but the organisation contained a number of factions that were prepared to commit terrorist acts.

Mr Windsor said that he did not regard the PLO as a 'terrorist organisation'. That would be a 'blanket, over-simplistic, very naive way of putting it'.

Mr Windsor said that Mrs Bauwens's father, Mr al-Ghussein, chairman of the Palestine National Fund and as such an ex-officio member of the PLO's executive committee, had a reputation for which he had the highest respect. He suspected that the fund would make very strong recommendations about where money should go, but the final decision would rest with the executive committee of the PLO.

Counsel will begin closing speeches today.