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George Galloway adds fuel to fire in defending WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

By Kevin Rawlinson in London

George Galloway has refused to retract his comments that the sexual offences allegedly committed by Julian Assange amounted to no more than bad "sexual etiquette" -- despite the leader of his own party condemning his remarks as "deeply disappointing and wrong".

When the Respect MP issued a statement yesterday, it was expected he would use the opportunity to clarify his controversial claims about the WikiLeaks founder. But instead of addressing them directly, he insisted that Mr Assange was the target of a "set-up" by the US, British and Swedish governments.

"No never means yes and non-consensual sex is rape. Julian Assange, let's be clear, has always denied the allegations. And this has all the hallmarks of a set-up," the statement read.

Mr Assange faces the prospect of being charged with four separate offences in Sweden.

However, Mr Galloway insisted: "What occurred is not rape as most people understand it. And it's important to note that the two women involved did not initially claim it."

Salma Yaqoob, the leader of the Respect party, said Mr Galloway's original comments had been "deeply disappointing and wrong".

She said the "political issues" surrounding Mr Assange's case should not be used to diminish the seriousness of the accusations against him.

(© Independent News Service)

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