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BBC Scotland's Alexandra Mackenzie
"The bishop's action has attracted much support"
 real 28k

Saturday, 4 March, 2000, 18:40 GMT
Controversial bishop backs Afghans
Richard Holloway
Bishop Holloway is leader of the Episcopal church in Scotland
A controversial bishop has pledged around 4,000 of his church's funds as bail for 13 of the hostages from the Afghan hijack.

Richard Holloway, the Episcopal Bishop of Edinburgh, and head of his church in Scotland, said he was approached by an organisation that helps asylum seekers and asked to pledge about 300 as a surety for each of the Afghans.

There's a strong Christian responsibility and a principle to care for strangers, especially those in distress

Bishop Holloway
"These people in this particular situation have no friends in this country and I was keen to give them some kind of qualified liberty," he said.

"There is an organisation that finds people who will act as guarantors and I was invited to be one.

"There was a bail hearing in London on Thursday and I simply agreed to act as surety for their good behaviour and their compliance with the terms of the bail arrangements."

Bishop Holloway confirmed that if any of the refugees abscond, the bail money will come out of church funds but he said this was "extremely unlikely".

He said :"It's money that will come from the Scottish Episcopal Church. There's a strong Christian responsibility and a principle to care for strangers, especially those in distress."

Hostage boy
The hostages were released after a four day standoff at Stanstead
The Bishop said none of those for whom he is a guarantor is an alleged hijacker of the aircraft: "They are not criminals. They would have been detained while their cases are dealt with by the Home Office."

The Bishop sparked controversy last year when his book "Godless Morality" was published. He has also admitted trying marijuana and said the drug was a normal part of culture for people under 45.

Failure accusations

He has also accused the Scottish Executive of failing to stand up to the Catholic Church on key moral issues.

Writing in the Scotsman last year Bishop Holloway said the administration had shown itself to be weak in the face "intrusive" opposition to its policies on abortion and homosexuality.

He said at the time that an entrenched Catholic Church had the Scottish Parliament "on the run".

He accused senior Labour officials of failing to defend Health Minister Susan Deacon and Communities Minister Wendy Alexander after fierce criticism from Cardinal Winning, leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland.
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