Labour peer Lord Ahmed suspended after 'Jewish claims'
A Labour peer has reportedly blamed Jewish-owned media organisations for his imprisonment for dangerous driving.
The Labour Party has suspended Lord Ahmed while it investigates the comments reported in the Times.
The peer, jailed for sending a text message shortly before his car was involved in a fatal crash, said Jewish owners of "newspapers and TV channels" had put pressure on the court, according to the newspaper.
Lord Ahmed has declined to comment.
In a statement, the Labour Party said it "deplores and does not tolerate any sort of racism or anti-Semitism".
"We will be seeking to clarify these remarks as soon as possible," the statement added.
Lord Ahmed is reported to have made the comments in a television interview, thought to have been broadcast in April last year, while he was on a visit to Pakistan.
According to the Times, he told an Urdu-language broadcast he should have been sentenced by a magistrate but pressure had been placed on the courts to charge him with a more serious offence because of his support for Palestinians.
"My case became more critical because I went to Gaza to support Palestinians. My Jewish friends who own newspapers and TV channels opposed this," the Times reports him as saying in the television interview.
He said the judge who had sentenced him had been appointed to the High Court after helping a "Jewish colleague" of Tony Blair during "an important case", the newspaper adds.'Appalled'
Lord Ahmed was jailed for 12 weeks in 2009 after sending and receiving text messages while driving.
He was freed by the Court of Appeal after serving 16 days of the sentence because of "exceptional" mitigation relating to his community work.
He had been involved in a fatal crash minutes after sending the messages on Christmas Day 2007.
He pleaded guilty to dangerous driving but did not face the more serious charge of causing death by dangerous driving because no causal link could be established between his texts and the crash.
But the case was transferred from Sheffield Magistrates Court to Sheffield Crown Court for sentencing because the district judge in the case felt his sentencing powers were not sufficient.
The 55-year-old Pakistan-born businessman and Labour Party activist was appointed to the House of Lords by Tony Blair in 1998. He was one of the first three Muslim peers,
He was suspended and investigated by the Labour Party in 2012 after allegations he had called for a £10m bounty for the capture of US Presidents Barack Obama and George W Bush. He was subsequently cleared and reinstated.
Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: "We are appalled by Lord Ahmed's alleged comments which recall the worst Jewish conspiracy theories. However outlandish and incredible his allegations, there will always be gullible or malicious individuals or groups that will accept what he has said and add to the growth of anti-semitic discourse.
"We note that Lord Ahmed has now been suspended from the Labour Party pending a full investigation. If he is found to have indeed made the reported comments, he should be expelled from the Labour Party, as such views should have no space in responsible political discourse."