[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 February 2006, 20:49 GMT
Judge freezes mayor's suspension
Ken Livingstone
The ban was expected to start on Wednesday

The mayor of London's four-week suspension has been frozen by a High Court judge, pending an appeal.

Ken Livingstone was due to be suspended from Wednesday after being found to have brought his office into disrepute with his comments to a reporter.

Earlier he said he would fight the "attack on the democratic rights of Londoners" through the courts.

He said his remark, comparing a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard, had been "blown out of all proportion".

He has been granted a judicial review of the decision by the Adjudication Panel for England, which he said had "profound constitutional implications".

The High Court judge ruled he was entitled to have the controversial sanction put on hold, while he appeals.

'Insincere apology'

Earlier Mr Livingstone said he would consider taking the case to the Court of Appeal and the Law Lords if he lost, even though it could end up costing him "a couple of hundred thousand pounds".

And he said he would not be apologising to the Evening Standard journalist Oliver Finegold, as it would be an insincere apology.

Oliver Finegold
Oliver Finegold told Mr Livingstone he was offended
"I believe what I said was right. I said it to many journalists. No one has ever complained before," said Mr Livingstone.

Mr Finegold approached Mr Livingstone after a party held for Chris Smith, marking 20 years since he became Britain's first openly gay MP.

The mayor asked the reporter if he was a German war criminal, then told him he was like a concentration camp guard.

After a complaint made by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, a disciplinary hearing found he had brought his office into disrepute and suspended him from office for four weeks.

Views on Israel

But Mr Livingstone said it followed "25 years of abuse", largely from Associated Newspapers - publishers of the Evening Standard.

With freedom of expression comes responsibility to be sensitive to other people's feelings
Jon Benjamin, Board of Deputies of British Jews

Mr Livingstone said on Tuesday the Board of Deputies made the complaint because of his views on the Israeli Government.

He said any implication that he had been anti-Semitic was unjust, because he had fought an unrelenting war on racism as mayor.

Jon Benjamin, of the Board of Deputies said: "With freedom of expression comes responsibility to be sensitive to other people's feelings.

"There were a large number of people who were offended and they should be equally free to report their concerns."

Speaking on Tuesday evening at the Hackney Empire, Mr Livingstone told more than 750 Londoners that those in power did not trust them to elect their own mayor.

He was addressing a meeting which allows the public to quiz London Assembly members - an electronic poll showed 84% of them did not support the panel's decision.

'Flawed system' suspended mayor
25 Feb 06 |  London

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific