Stop picking on Galloway?

A breathtaking apologia for Galloway in the Guardian from Roy Greenslade who claims that the MP is the victim of a media witch-hunt.

“He is simply not being given a fair crack of the whip,” says Greenslade after a day in which across the media Galloway’s denial of the Senate report has been the lead story and in which few media have asked Galloway the really tough questions such as – why were the Mariam Appeal accounts sent out of the UK and to Baghdad?

Its hard to know where to start with such garbage. Here is a man who sucked up to a genocidal dictator and is routinely described in the media as a ‘colourful maverick’. A man who supports the murderous alliance of suicide bombers and Ba’athist torturers in Iraq but is routinely described as being ‘anti-war’ or a leader of the ‘peace movement’.

Greenslade objects to the fact that Radio Four gave Oona King a chance to speak on Wednesday saying that other former MP’s were not given airtime. This, remember, is from a journalist on a newspaper which gave Galloway a column to promote his views a few days before the vote – with no space offered to his opponent.

Correct me if I am mistaken but did the Guardian give any other candidate in a marginal anywhere in the UK a 500 word column in the paper just before the election?

Serious accusations have been made against Galloway and if they had been made against Tony Blair or any senior politician from a mainstream party there would already have been calls for resignation. Remember the fuss over Blunkett’s rail ticket for his girlfriend? One domestic rail ticket. Then take a minute to browse through the information relating to the Mariam Appeal.

On the charges Greenslade says: During the (Telegraph) case Galloway successfully rebutted every point in the Telegraph story that led its journalists to conclude that he had profited from Saddam’s government

But the court did not make a judgement on the allegations nor did it find that the documents were ‘fake’ as many now claim. So it is simply impossible to talk of a ‘successful rebuttal’.

As the Telegraph points out today in a very useful FAQ:

Q: Weren’t The Daily Telegraph allegations shown in court to be false?

A: Definitely not. Mr Galloway sued The Daily Telegraph for libel, and won, but the hearing did not settle the question of whether Mr Galloway actually took Saddam’s money. The Daily Telegraph relied upon the so-called Reynolds defence, which allows newspapers to publish defamatory material in some circumstances, and the case revolved around whether the paper acted responsibly. In his judgment Mr Justice Eady said: “There has been no plea of justification in this case, and accordingly it has not been part of my function to rule directly upon the truth or otherwise of the underlying allegations [against Mr Galloway].”

Galloway has put forward two untruths in the past 24 hours.

Firstly, he claimed on Newsnight last night that the expenses paid to him by the Mariam Appeal were “in the hundreds”. I challenge anyone to cost the various international flights and hotel stays registered by Galloway as having been paid for by the Mariam Appeal and keep the cost within three figures. He spent thousands on travel.

Also, the Telegraph says that the Charity Commission reported, Galloway made unauthorised salary payments to two trustees, Dr Amineh Abu-Zayyad, who is Mr Galloway’s wife, and Stuart Halford, a friend.

Galloway’s references to “in the hundreds” referred to his personal expenses but without the financial documents, which two years after promising he would make avaliable Galloway has yet to make public, it is impossible to know fully what else the Mariam Appeal money was spent on. Galloway has already admitted to the Guardian that £150,000 of Mariam Appeal funds were spent on the “Big Ben to Baghdad” bus trip.

The second piece of pure bull is the claim from Galloway:

“The Mariam Appeal’s finances were exhaustively investigated by the Charity Commission and nothing improper was found.”

As the Telegraph report today:

In fact, detailed scrutiny of its finances was not possible because, as the commission said yesterday, “proper accounts were not available”.

When the allegations about the oil transactions were first aired in The Daily Telegraph in 2003, Mr Galloway said he would open up the organisation’s books.

But in a report last year, after a 12-month inquiry, the Charity Commission said: “[We] have been unable to obtain all the books and records of the appeal.”

Mr Galloway told the commission that the documentation had been sent to Amman in Jordan and to Baghdad in 2001 when his associate, Fawaz Zureikat, became chairman of the appeal.

So sorry Mr Greenslade, but I think it is a fair question to ask. Why were the Mariam Appeal’s financial statements and other documents scurried out of the country to Baghdad and Jordan to end up in the hands of a man who, as we saw on Newsnight last night, has made no secret of his involvement in Saddam’s oil deals?

And why, two years after promising to make the Mariam Appeal documents public, is Galloway still refusing to do so?

Note: Edited to make clear Galloway’s reference to “in the hundreds” related to his personal expenses from the Mariam Appeal.