- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2003

LONDON — Member of Parliament George Galloway, facing accusations that he had received up to $600,000 a year in payments from Saddam Hussein’s regime, lashed out yesterday at his suspension from the ruling Labor Party, calling it “grotesque.”Labor General-Secretary David Triesman announced late Tuesday that Mr. Galloway — a leading critic of the war despite the position of his party leader, Prime Minister Tony Blair — had been suspended immediately and indefinitely.The move followed complaints that the parliamentarian had brought the party “into disrepute by behavior that is prejudicial or grossly detrimental to the party,” Mr. Triesman said.Party leaders who forced the inquiry also were angry over Mr. Galloway’s own accusation, broadcast by an Arab television station in Abu Dhabi, that Mr. Blair and President Bush had attacked Iraq “like wolves.”The maverick politician reacted with fury, telling a British Broadcasting Corp. reporter: “You must accept that unless we’re going to have a parliament of poodles … people must be free to speak their mind whether they agree or not.”In a flurry of interviews yesterday, he said that the charges against him were “completely unjust,” and that his suspension from the Labor Party, of which he had been a member for 35 years, was “tantamount to political exile.”“I have been suspended from the Labor Party for the words that I speak, for the things that I believe in,” he said. “It is really grotesque that someone can be suspended from the party for speaking against a war.”Mr. Galloway said he had “embarked upon a considerable legal undertaking to prove in court the falseness of the allegations against me,” but that “this case will now run in parallel with a kind of kangaroo court.”But one Labor source said Mr. Galloway had “dug his own hole, and he’ll have to lie in it. The prime minister’s own case has been made with the success of the war effort, and George Galloway’s antics service only to underscore that success.”The source said the Galloway case would have no effect on Mr. Blair himself. “George is way off on a wing [of the Labor Party] by himself. And he’s going to get very lonely out there. He’s no longer a worry to anyone but himself.”Mr. Galloway had raised eyebrows with his several visits to Baghdad as Saddam Hussein’s guest and his support for the Iraqi president even as U.S.-led coalition forces were massing for the war that would depose him.Peter Mawer, Parliament’s commissioner for standards, has ordered an inquiry into documents published by the Daily Telegraph reportedly showing that Mr. Galloway had received up to $600,000 a year in cash from Saddam Hussein.The politician has threatened libel action against the Telegraph, but the newspaper said yesterday that “no libel proceedings have as yet been served” on it.A statement by the Labor Party said that its deputy general secretary, Chris Lennie, would conduct a thorough investigation of Mr. Galloway’s activities and statements, and that sanctions available to the party range from a written warning to outright expulsion.

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