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Last Updated: Friday, 21 October 2005, 19:20 GMT 20:20 UK
DeLay in first court appearance
Tom DeLay
Tom DeLay has denied charges of money laundering and conspiracy
Leading US Republican politician Tom DeLay has appeared in court for the first time since his indictment on money laundering and conspiracy counts.

But the Texas court agreed to delay Mr DeLay's arraignment, or formal calling before a court to answer the charges.

Lawyers for the former House majority leader had asked the judge to postpone proceedings until a ruling on Mr DeLay's bid for a new judge is heard.

He is accused of breaking campaign finance law, but denies the charges.

Mr DeLay is alleged to have laundered $190,000 (108,000) in corporate contributions for use in Republican campaigns in Texas.

State law forbids the use of corporate money for political campaigns.

'Will be exonerated'

Mr DeLay - nicknamed the Hammer for his forthright style - was until recently one of the most powerful politicians in Washington.

The former House majority leader's appearance in court came two days after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Mr DeLay's lawyer Dick DeGuerin argued that the sitting judge had contributed to a liberal organisation which has printed derogatory T-shirts of Mr DeLay.

Judge Bob Perkins told Mr DeGuerin he had not seen or bought the T-shirt and had contributed to MoveOn.org only ahead of last year's presidential election.

He said he would defer the proceedings and Mr DeLay's request would be considered.

"It seems to me this is going to be a continuing issue when there's a Democratic judge and Republican defendant," Judge Perkins said.

Mr DeLay did not speak during the brief court session, and was not called on to make a plea.

But after the appearance he told reporters: "I will absolutely be exonerated."

A close ally of President George W Bush, Mr DeLay has temporarily stepped down from his post as the second-highest ranking Republican in the House of Representatives to answer the charges.

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