Labour MPs accuse anti-war coalition of backing Bigley's killers

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Indy Politics

The stop the War Coalition was accused yesterday of supporting the killers of the British hostage Ken Bigley after it drew up a draft statement saying the Iraqi people should use "whatever means they find necessary" to end the occupation by coalition forces.

The stop the War Coalition was accused yesterday of supporting the killers of the British hostage Ken Bigley after it drew up a draft statement saying the Iraqi people should use "whatever means they find necessary" to end the occupation by coalition forces.

Two Labour MPs attacked the anti-war group, claiming that it sent a "scurrilous" e-mail to its supporters that would strongly imply "support for the so-called resistance and thereby acquiesce in the murders of more people such as Ken Bigley, as well as hundreds of ordinary Iraqis". The group responded by accusing the MPs of making an unfounded accusation because the draft statement was not sent out.

Harry Barnes, the MP for North East Derbyshire, who opposed the war, tabled a Commons motion urging Stop the War's leadership to "disavow these outrageous words which will only encourage those who use physical force in Iraq".

The motion, also signed by Mike Gapes, who backed military action, calls on the group to "clarify its position without delay, reassure the public that it has not lost its moral bearings". It says the "terrible" internal policy statement should be withdrawn and action taken against those people who issued it "to make sure that such highly offensive positions are never taken again".

Stop the War hit back last night, accusing the two MPs of getting their facts wrong. Andrew Burgin, a spokesman for the group, described the tabling of the Commons motion as "a despicable thing to do". He added: "The scurrilous statement is the early day motion."

He insisted that the phrase "whatever means necessary" appeared only in a first draft of a statement and was never circulated to the group's members or issued publicly. The phrase was omitted from the final draft as soon as other people in the group realised that it was not appropriate, he said.

Mr Burgin said Stop the War was not afraid to support "the legitimacy of the Iraqi people" in their efforts to end the occupation. But he insisted that this did not amount to implied support for the killers of Mr Bigley, adding that the group issued a statement calling for him to be released and had tried to secure that end.

Three other MPs rallied to the campaign's defence last night by tabling a counter motion. Labour's Jeremy Corbyn and Alice Mahon, and Jenny Tonge, a Liberal Democrat, praised Stop the War for organising anti-war activity in Britain since its formation in 2001 and staging the biggest demonstration in the country's history last year on the eve of the war.

They added: "The violence in Iraq during the invasion and since the occupation by the USA and Britain has cost the lives of US, British, other coalition and Iraqi service people and an uncounted number of Iraqi civilians." They said much of the unacceptable violence in Iraq was the result of the occupation and called for a "timetabled withdrawal" of British forces.

Paul Bigley, the brother of Ken, has backed Stop the War and the demonstration it held in London last Sunday calling for an immediate end to the occupation of Iraq and the release of people held illegally there.

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