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May 22 2012

23:11

News of the World's 'fake sheikh' had Tom Watson followed, emails show | Media | The Guardian

Mazher Mahmood, who now works for Sunday Times, appears to have commissioned surveillance of phone-hacking critic

The News of the World journalist Mazher Mahmood commissioned surveillance on his paper’s chief phone-hacking critic, the Labour MP Tom Watson, in the hope of finding him having an affair, according to email evidence Watson has obtained.

News International’s internal investigating group, the management and standards committee, belatedly turned over the emails to a parliamentary committee of which Watson was a member. They implicate Mahmood and two former NoW executives, the assistant editor Ian Edmondson and news editor James Mellor.

This latest revelation of methods at the now-closed NoW will present difficulties for John Witherow, the editor of the Sunday Times. Mahmood, the so-called “fake sheikh” who specialised in controversial undercover investigations, was rehired by the Sunday Times after its sister paper was closed down by Rupert Murdoch, and is still working there.

Witherow has not so far commented on the disclosures.

The attempt by journalists at the NoW to gain evidence of sexual indiscretions by its arch-critic was launched on the morning of Saturday 26 September 2009, at the start of the Labour party conference. Mahmood claimed in an email to Mellor, copied to Edmondson, that he had received a tip that married Watson was “shagging” a fellow activist, and that he was “creeping into her hotel” at Brighton. The information, from a so-far unknown purported informant, appears to have been completely false. …

23:07

News International executives should face possibility of jail, says MP | Media | The Guardian

…Labour frontbencher Chris Bryant…believed the case would be seen as “one of the most flagrant examples of a contempt of parliament in parliament’s history”. He told MPs: “It is not just that it was one person at one time, it was not just that it was one organisation for a brief period of time, it’s that a whole series of people systematically, repeatedly lied so as to protect themselves, to protect their commercial interests and to try and make sure they didn’t end up going to prison – that they did fully knowing that they were telling lies to parliament. That, I believe, is a fundamental contempt.” …

…He said: “I believe that this house and the committee itself should consider in turn, firstly whether or not the three individuals mentioned, and corporately News International should be summoned to this house. I believe that it must still be an important power for this house.

“Secondly, they should consider whether individuals should be fined, not least because there have been considerable expenses incurred by parliament and the prosecuting authorities by the process of lying to parliament, and thirdly, it has to be right whether or not to imprison.

“If this had happened in the Scottish parliament, it would have gone on to imprisonment, if it had been a contempt of court it would have led to imprisonment, if it had been perjury of a court, it would have led to imprisonment.”

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