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Page last updated at 22:30 GMT, Thursday, 2 October 2008 23:30 UK

Alaskan senator's trial to go on

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

The judge at the US federal corruption trial of Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens has rejected a defence request to have the charges against him dismissed.

Judge Emmet Sullivan sent home the jury for the day after defence lawyers pointed out that prosecutors had withheld vital evidence.

Prosecutors admitted making a mistake but asked for the trial to continue.

Mr Stevens is accused of lying on Senate financial disclosure forms about gifts from an oil firm.

Mr Stevens, who is the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, has denied the charges.

Though the judge refused to reject the charges or declare a mistrial, he also criticised the prosecutors, saying their failure to hand over evidence was "unbelievable" and "very troubling".

He ordered them to hand over to the defence all FBI interviews with witnesses.

Election campaign

Defence lawyer Brendan Sullivan had asked the judge on Thursday morning to dismiss the charges against his client.

He said that prosecution lawyers had not turned over FBI reports about their star witness, Bill Allen, who had already testified, until late on Wednesday night.

Prosecutor Brenda Morris admitted a mistake had been made, but said it was not sufficient to declare a mistrial.

"We are human and we made an error," she said.

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.

His lawyers say the reports withheld until Wednesday by the prosecution related to an FBI agent's interview with Mr Allen, Veco's founder, who pleaded guilty to bribery charges in May 2007.

The interview showed that Mr Allen believed Mr Stevens, his long-time friend, would have paid for the renovations if he had billed him.

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.




SEE ALSO
Profile: Senator Ted Stevens
24 Sep 08 |  Americas
Alaska senator charged over gifts
29 Jul 08 |  Americas
FBI searches US senator's house
31 Jul 07 |  Americas

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