LONDON — A member of Britain’s House of Lords quit the Labour Party on Monday, two days before he was due to face a hearing over allegations he made anti-Semitic remarks in a television interview.
Nazir Ahmed was suspended from the Labour Party in March following a report that he blamed a Jewish conspiracy for his 2009 prison sentence for dangerous driving.
Ahmed had insisted he did not recall making the alleged comments to an Urdu-language broadcaster in Pakistan, but was due to appear before Labour’s National Executive Committee on Wednesday about the accusations.
His lawyer Stephen Smith said he did not think Ahmed would have received a fair trial from the Labour panel, and the party confirmed Monday that Ahmed had resigned. He remains a member of the House of Lords.
The alleged remarks came to light when the Times of London said it had obtained footage of an Urdu-language TV interview where Ahmed blamed his 12-week prison sentence on pressure put on courts by Jewish-owned media organization.
Ahmed later apologized for the comments, telling the Huffington Post that he is “not anti-Semitic.”
Ahmed, who is Muslim, “completely and unreservedly” apologized to “the Jewish community, to the judiciary, to the newspaper owners” for his comments, and said that he has “the greatest respect” for the Jewish community in an interview with the Huffington Post UK.
“I only believe in facts and, to be honest, I should have stuck with the facts rather than with conspiracy theories,” he said.
Jewish Labor lawmaker Gerald Kaufman supported Ahmed in an interview with the Huffington Post. “I have witnessed Nazir reprimanding people who’ve made anti-Semitic remarks at public events,” he said. “He’s not only not anti-Semitic. He’s pro-Jewish.”
In March 2009, a court of appeals freed Ahmed from a 12-week prison sentence handed down by Justice Alan Wilkie following Ahmed’s conviction for dangerous driving in 2007. Ahmed was involved in an accident which claimed the life of 28-year-old Martyn Gombar. Gombar, who reportedly was drunk, collided with Ahmed’s car, The Times of London reported. Ahmed pleaded guilty to dangerous driving at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court in December 2008.
According to the Times of London, Ahmed alleged that Wilkie was appointed to the High Court after helping a “Jewish colleague” of former Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Ahmed also allegedly maintained that the plot stemmed from Jewish disapproval of his support for the Palestinians in Gaza. “My case became more critical because I went to Gaza to support Palestinians. My Jewish friends who own newspapers and TV channels opposed this,” he allegedly said in the interview.
Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said at the time that the group was “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.”
The controversy came a year after Ahmed was suspended from the Labour Party amid reports he offered a bounty for the capture of President Barack Obama — comments he denied.
Miriam Shaviv contributed to this report.