Photo: Sky News
London mayor's suspension on hold
Photo: Sky News

Court blocks Livingstone suspension

Britain's High Court delays London mayor's suspension over Nazi jibe until appeal can be heard; Livingstone refused to apologize for referring to Jewish reporter as 'Nazi guard'

Britain's High Court has blocked a four-week suspension of London's Mayor Ken Livingstone imposed for comparing a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard.


The mayor was ordered suspended for a month beginning March 1 by a tribunal last week for bringing his office into disrepute during an exchange with the reporter outside a party.


But a High Court judge accepted his request to have the suspension delayed until an appeal can be heard.


Livingstone refused to apologize for his remarks and said the panel that suspended him had overstepped its bounds.


"If the issue hadn't been this, it would have been something else," he said. "For far too long, the allegation of anti-Semitism has been used against anybody critical of Israel's policies towards the Palestinians."


"The Adjudication Tribunal found that my comment to the Evening Standard journalist had been 'unnecessarily insensitive' and 'offensive' -- those are not grounds for overturning the decision of the voters of London to elect me as mayor," Livingstone, 60, told a news conference.


"As far as I am aware, there is no law against 'unnecessary insensitivity' or even 'offensiveness' to journalists harassing you as you try to go home."


He also denied any bias against Jews, and said accusations of anti-Semitism were being raised "to give weight to charges which would otherwise be too trivial to merit the gigantic fuss that has been made about this brief private exchange."


Livingstone sparked the rumpus when reporter Oliver Finegold questioned him as he left a party for a gay politician last year.


When the reporter identified himself as working for the Evening Standard, a paper loathed by the mayor, Livingstone asked: "What did you do? Were you a German war criminal?"


Finegold said he was Jewish and found the remarks offensive. Livingstone replied that the reporter was "like a concentration camp guard -- you are just doing it because you are paid to."


Livingstone has since explained the jibe as criticism of the Standard and its sister paper the Daily Mail, which supported the Nazis in the 1930s.


The outspoken mayor won election to the newly created post in 2000 after leaving Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party and beating Blair's candidate. He has since returned to the party, but has clashed with Blair on Iraq and other issues.


He was widely praised last year, including by the Standard, for guiding London's successful bid for the 2012 Olympics and for his handling of suicide bomb attacks on the city's transport network in which 52 commuters died.


The Guardian newspaper quoted Livingstone as saying Sunday morning that if he were eventually suspended he would use the time to go on holiday or write "something useful about the history and context of the Middle East."


פרסום ראשון: 02.28.06, 19:27
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