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The BBC's Joshua Rozenberg:
"Al Fayed was still cracking jokes as he left court"
 real 28k

Friday, 19 November, 1999, 14:28 GMT
Hamilton 'would sell mother'
Mohamed al-Fayed arriving at the High Court to give evidence

Harrods owner Mohamed al-Fayed has told the High Court he regarded former MP Neil Hamilton as motivated by greed.

Giving evidence during a libel case brought by Mr Hamilton, the Egyptian-born tycoon described the former Conservative minister as someone who had "no dignity, no honour, nothing".

He denied his decision to make public his allegations that Mr Hamilton had taken cash payments to ask parliamentary questions had come about because he was furious about the politician's role in an inquiry into the Harrods takeover.

Mr Hamilton is suing over the allegations, made in a Channel 4 Dispatches programme, which he denies.

Christine and Neil Hamilton: Suing for libel
In courtroom 13, Mr al-Fayed's lawyer, George Carman QC, suggested the Harrods boss could have made up the story for revenge.

His client replied: "Why I had to take revenge? For me, he is nothing, he is not a human, he is someone who would sell his mother for money."

Mr al-Fayed said he had decided to make public his claims after meeting the then editor of The Guardian, Peter Preston, in 1993

"Mr Preston had convinced me that this is the right thing to do and people like that have to be exposed.

"The voter has to know, the ordinary people have to know what kind of people they have put in power," Mr al-Fayed told the jury.

He also complained Mr Hamilton and his wife, Christine, had abused his hospitality during a 1987 stay at the Paris Ritz hotel, which he owns, by ordering vintage champagne and other expensive items.

When the hearing began, Mr al-Fayed accused the lawyer representing Mr Hamilton of lacking compassion by raising the death of his son, Dodi, and Princess Diana in a car crash.

Desmond Browne QC had told the High Court Mr al-Fayed had "forfeited all sympathy" through his reaction to the accident in Paris two years ago.

Seeking to depict the Egyptian-born tycoon as a habitual liar and a bully, the lawyer suggested his account of the deaths was false.

"What Mr al-Fayed has said repeatedly is that to prevent the forthcoming marriage of Dodi and the Princess of Wales they were murdered by British intelligence on the direction of Prince Philip," Mr Browne said.

It hurts

When he took the witness stand on Friday, Mr al-Fayed reacted with fury to the comments.

"It's very hurting. It's inhumane. I think he's done it basically to upset me and upset the family," he said.

"To repeat such tragedy is completely inhumane and someone, if he is a father, he have children, and he understand what it means for a father to lose his son - he have to pursue every angle to find out if there is anything suspicious about the loss of my son.

"And I hope he will have the dignity and the humanity not to repeat such tragedy which have hit me and not to capitalise on my grief."

Mr al-Fayed gave evidence first at the request of Mr Hamilton's side in the case. He took the stand before a jury already shrunk to 11 by illness wearing a grey suit and black tie.

Mr al-Fayed swore an oath of the Koran when he entered the witness box. But the formalities of stating his name and date of birth immediately brought a challenge from Mr Browne.

The judge, Mr Justice Morland, said the matter could be decided later in the absence of the jury.

He also repeatedly intervened to ask Mr al-Fayed not to make speeches but to answer the questions he was being asked.

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See also:
18 Nov 99 |  UK
Hamilton 'took 30,000 bribe'
15 Nov 99 |  UK
Hamilton libel trial opens
18 Nov 99 |  UK
Al-Fayed's 'lies will bury him'
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