Respect MP George Galloway has defended his controversial claim that a sexual assault allegation against WikiLeaks campaigner Julian Assange amounted to no more than bad “sexual etiquette”.
Mr Galloway provoked a furious response from women's groups after he said in a video podcast that even if the complaints made against Mr Assange by two women in Sweden were true, they did not constitute rape.
But in a statement today, the MP said he did not believe the authorities in Britain would have sanctioned a prosecution and that the allegations against Mr Assange had "all the hallmarks of a set-up".
"No never means yes and non-consensual sex is rape. There's no doubt about it and that has always been my position. But if my remarks on the podcast need clarification I am happy to do that," he said.
"Julian Assange, let's be clear, has always denied the allegations. And this has all the hallmarks of a set-up.
"I don't believe, from what we know, that the Director of Public Prosecutions would sanction a prosecution in Britain. What occurred is not rape as most people understand it. And it's important to note that the two women involved did not initially claim it."
Mr Assange is currently holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in an attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning about the rape allegations.
In his statement, Mr Galloway, who is currently in Indonesia, said Mr Assange had repeatedly made clear that he was prepared to return to Sweden to face questioning if he received guarantees that he would not be extradited to the United States to face charges over the leak of US diplomatic cables.
"It is not denied that Assange had consensual sex with woman A on August 14, 2010 and similarly with Miss W three days later. She even hosted a party for him the following evening," Mr Galloway said.
"Over the next three days the women met up and talked to a journalist about the events. On August 20 both went to a police station, not to allege rape, but to see if it was possible to force Assange to have an HIV test. An arrest warrant was issued and then withdrawn, with a chief prosecutor saying, 'I don't think there is reason to suspect he has committed rape'."