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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 October 2005, 01:44 GMT 02:44 UK
New indictment against Bush ally
Tom DeLay
Tom DeLay is seen as immensely influential
New charges have been brought against Tom DeLay, a US Congressional leader in the state of Texas, following a conspiracy indictment last week.

The new indictment against the House of Representatives Republican leader contains counts of money laundering and conspiring to launder money.

Mr DeLay has temporarily stepped down from his post to answer the charges.

He says he is innocent, and accuses prosecutors in Texas of manufacturing charges for political reasons.

The House leader is a key fundraiser for President George W Bush and is seen as wielding immense political influence.

'Prosecutorial abuse'

The indictment, by a Texas grand jury, accuses Mr DeLay of conspiring with colleagues to get around a state ban on corporate funding for political campaigns.

This is an abomination of justice
Tom DeLay

He is alleged to have laundered money for use in an election campaign for the Texas legislature in 2002. He could face up to 20 years for conspiracy and life imprisonment for money laundering.

The new charges came as lawyers for Mr DeLay asked a judge to throw out last week's indictment, accusing him of conspiring to violate campaign laws, on the grounds that it is based on a statute that only came into effect in 2003.

But Mr DeLay accused Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who initiated the indictments, of foul play.

"Ronnie Earle has stooped to a new low with his brand of prosecutorial abuse," he said in a statement.

"He is trying to pull the legal equivalent of a 'do-over' since he knows very well that the charges he brought against me last week are totally manufactured and illegitimate. This is an abomination of justice."

Congressional reprimand

Mr DeLay has been hugely influential in driving the Republican agenda in Congress.

He has been under investigation for possible illegal fundraising and use of corporate funds by a political action group he chairs.

John Colyandro, former executive director of a Texas political action committee founded by Mr DeLay, and Jim Ellis, who heads his national political committee, were indicted alongside the top Congressman on both occasions.

A Congressional ethics committee has reprimanded Mr DeLay three times for what it calls objectionable behaviour.

In the past, Mr DeLay has called the allegations against him "fiction and innuendo" and a result of a political witch-hunt.

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