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Texas Governor Perry pleads not guilty to abusing power

In this handout provided by the Travis County Sheriffs Office, Texas Gov. Rick Perry poses for a mug shot photo after turning himself in to authorities in Austin, Texas 19 August 2014 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Rick Perry spoke to the media and supporters before he was officially booked under abuse of power charges

Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry has pleaded not guilty to charges he abused his power in an attempt to pressure a Democratic political adversary to resign.

Mr Perry turned himself into police on Tuesday, vowing to fight the case with "every fibre of my being".

If tried and found guilty, he could face up to 99 years in prison.

The governor, a potential Republican presidential hopeful, has dismissed the prosecution as a political ploy.

Mr Perry filed his plea with the court on Tuesday shortly after he was fingerprinted and had his mug shot taken.

He was indicted by a grand jury panel of Texas residents on Friday after months of investigation into his motivation for cutting funds amounting to $7.5m (£4.5m) to a state anti-corruption unit run by Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg.

In June 2013, Mr Perry threatened to withhold funding for the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney's Office unless Ms Lehmberg, a Democrat, resigned over widely publicised drink-driving charges.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Perry said he would "prevail" against the abuse of power charges

'Intent to harm'

Ms Lehmberg refused to resign and several days later Mr Perry carried out the veto, partially defunding her office.

The indictment charges that Mr Perry "intentionally or knowingly misused government property... with intent to harm another" and charged him with abuse of office and coercion of a public servant.

Abuse of office can carry punishments of between five to 99 years in prison, while coercion of a public servant carries sentences ranging from two to 10 years.

On Tuesday evening dozens of supporters, reporters and a handful of protesters greeted Mr Perry as he arrived at a courthouse in Austin, some holding signs declaring "Stop Democrat Games", "Rick is Right" and "Keep Calm and Veto On".

"I'm going to fight this injustice with every fibre of my being," Mr Perry said at a podium bearing the seal of his office before walking inside. "And we will prevail."

He returned quickly, telling the crowd he was confident he would be found innocent.

"We don't resolve political disputes or policy differences by indictments," he said before documenting a trip to get ice cream on Twitter. "We don't criminalise policy disagreements."

Mr Perry, 63, is the longest-serving governor in the state's history and the first governor of Texas to be indicted on criminal charges in nearly a century.

He ran unsuccessfully for the 2012 Republican Party presidential nomination and had been seen as positioning himself for another run in 2016.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Rick Perry speaks with his lawyers in the booking area of the courthouse

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