Page last updated at 19:10 GMT, Thursday, 25 September 2008 20:10 UK

Alaska senator 'accepted gifts'

Ted Stevens outside federal court on 24 Sep
Mr Stevens has been in the US Senate since 1968

Federal prosecutors say Alaska Senator Ted Stevens is a "crafty politician" who knows how to take gifts unnoticed.

They were speaking at the opening of the trial of Mr Stevens, who is accused of lying on Senate financial disclosure forms about gifts from an oil firm.

Mr Stevens' defence lawyer maintained the senator had not known that the oil firm had not been paid for the gifts.

The Senator, who is the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, is fighting a tough re-election bid.

Mr Stevens, 84, has said he plans to speak at the trial but has also said he will follow the advice of his lawyers.

Testifying would expose the senator, who has a reputation for a quick temper, to a series of probing questions from the prosecution, the Associated Press says.

Election battle

During opening arguments, prosecutor Brenda Morris said Mr Stevens was a "crafty politician" who had learned during his long service in the Senate to accept gifts without being noticed.

Mr Stevens is accused of failing to disclose $250,000 (135,000) of work done on his house free of charge by employees of the Veco oil company that normally builds pipelines and processing equipment.

He had "thumbed his nose" at the public's right to know about the gifts, Ms Morris said, according to AP.

Mr Stevens has pleaded not guilty, saying he has "never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a US senator".

Mr Stevens has continued to campaign since he was indicted in July.

His Senate seat is up for grabs in November's election and polls suggest he is facing a tough battle against his Democratic challenger, Mark Begich, if he is to secure an eighth term.

Profile: Senator Ted Stevens
24 Sep 08 |  Americas
Alaska senator charged over gifts
29 Jul 08 |  Americas
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