Tommy Sheridan libel witness arrested in perjury probe

A friend of former socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan, who backed him in his News of the World defamation trial, has been arrested by police investigating perjury claims.

The arrest of former Scottish Socialist MSP Rosemary Byrne comes two months after Sheridan was charged with lying in court.

Sheridan, who left the Scottish Socialists to set up his own party, Solidarity, was awarded £200,000 damages following a defamation case against the News of the World newspaper in 2006.

Byrne, who is a close ally of Sheridan, is one of four of his party colleagues who gave evidence in his favour.

A Lothian and Borders Police spokeswoman said: “A 59-year-old woman has been arrested in connection with an ongoing investigation.”

Sheridan himself was arrested in December by detectives investigating claims of perjury.

Plain-clothes officers swooped outside Edinburgh’s Talk 107 radio station, minutes after he had finished his weekly show.

The perjury claims followed Sheridan’s 23-day trial against the Sunday tabloid at the Court of Session in Edinburgh August 2006.

A jury of six men and five women dismissed the paper’s claims that the socialist MSP was a serial adulterer and swinger who used drugs.

The newspaper said at the time that it planned to appeal against the verdict.

That move was put on hold last September when judges agreed that the proceedings should be suspended until the perjury inquiry was resolved.

Before the jury retired to consider its verdict, judge Lord Turnbull said the conflicting evidence given to the court may have meant some people had been perjuring themselves – an offence which could lead to a prison sentence.

Solidarity said police asked Byrne to come in for questioning. Party spokesman Jim Monaghan said: “We consider this to be a political witch-hunt.

“I don’t think we have anything to worry about. We believe it’s just police intimidation and it’s to put pressure on members of Solidarity and to put pressure on Tommy Sheridan.

“We expected this as part of an ongoing pressure campaign.

“Our members have done nothing wrong and have nothing to fear in a court at all.”

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