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Tuesday, 31 July, 2001, 07:57 GMT 08:57 UK
Australian right-winger charged with fraud
One Party leader Pauline Hanson
Pauline Hanson hopes to make a political comeback
The leader of Australia's right-wing One Nation party has appeared in court accused of fraud.

Pauline Hanson pleaded not guilty to charges alleging she illegally registered her party and subsequently accepted Aus $500,000 (US $250,000) in electoral funding.

If convicted, Ms Hanson will be barred from standing in forthcoming parliamentary elections and could face a maximum of 10 years in jail.

This is a political witch hunt... am I that much of a political threat to the major political parties?

Pauline Hanson
Ms Hanson, who founded the party, said the charges against her were politically motivated.

Speaking outside Brisbane Magistrates Court, she told reporters: "I am bitter, I am upset by all this, especially leading into an election... when I am running for the senate.

"This is a political witch hunt... am I that much of a political threat to the major political parties?"

It is alleged One Nation registered as a political party in Ms Hanson's home state Queensland in 1997 without having enough paid-up members.

Asian man with child
One Party has been criticised for its policies towards Asian immigration
Ms Hanson, who is charged alongside her co-founder David Etteridge, is said to have fraudulently accepted funding after winning 11 seats in the state election the following year.

Mainstream political parties were shocked by the strength of support for One Nation, which had previously been largely dismissed as a fringe group of right-wing extremists.

The party's opponents accused it of promoting racist policies, in particular in its attitude towards Asian immigration.

In parliamentary elections in 1998, One Nation polled 8.4% of the vote but Ms Hanson lost her seat and the party disintegrated amid political in-fighting and legal troubles.

However, in February the party performed well in elections in Queensland and Western Australia states, polling up to 10% of votes.

Ms Hanson has said she hopes to revive her political career by winning a seat in the upper house Senate in December.

The BBC's Dominic Hughes in Sydney
"The charges carry a maximum of 10 years in jail"
See also:

22 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Pauline Hanson threatens to quit
22 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Asian-Australians fear far-right return
19 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Poll setback for Australia PM
24 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Aborigines attack welfare culture
27 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Shadow over Australian party
04 Oct 98 | Australian elections
Pauline Hanson: Voice of nationalism
13 Jun 98 | Asia-Pacific
Race dominates Australian elections
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