Ex-British Minister Aitken Charged
LONDON (AP) _ Ex-Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken and his associate appeared in court Tuesday to face charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with a failed libel suit against a newspaper.
Aitken, 56, and Said Mohammed Ayas, a former aide to the Saudi royal family, were not asked to plead and the case was adjourned until Oct. 19.
The political career of Aitken, who was a defense minister and then treasury minister under ex-Prime Minister John Major, ended in public humiliation last year when he abruptly dropped a libel suit against London’s Guardian newspaper.
The case centers on a mysterious weekend that Aitken spent at the Ritz Hotel in Paris in 1993, when he was in charge of Britain’s arms deals.
The Guardian and Granada Television reported that Aitken had undeclared links with Saudi arms dealers, and that the Ritz weekend was paid for by a Saudi businessman _ a breach of ethics for a government minister.
Aitken testified that his wife, Lolicia, flew to Paris from Switzerland and paid the Ritz bill in cash after he left.
The Guardian’s lawyers produced airline and car rental records indicating Lolicia Aitken never went to Paris.