Tommy Sheridan finds new witnesses to bolster appeal

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THREE new witnesses have come forward claiming they can give disgraced former Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan an alibi for the night he is alleged to have been at a swingers' club.

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The Scotsman can reveal Sheridan's legal team have unearthed the fresh witnesses who say they can place the former MSP at an SSP meeting on the day he was accused of being at a swingers' club in Manchester - a key part of the prosecution evidence used to convict him.

The lawyers claim the witnesses will cast "serious doubt" over the perjury conviction and could lead to the guilty verdict being thrown out on appeal.

Sheridan was convicted on five counts of perjury relating to evidence he gave in his civil action against the News of the World, and one of the charges related specifically to him attending Cupid's in Manchester on 27 September, 2002. However, one of the new witnesses, Fatima Uygun, whose evidence will form a key part of Sheridan's attempt to win an appeal, claims she was at a political meeting with the then SSP leader on that date and that he even planted a birthday kiss on her cheek.

Another witness, Mark Gilroy, claims to have spoken to Sheridan during the same meeting at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, where they were promoting an SSP event due to be held a few days later.

The Scotsman understands a third witness, who is currently out of the country, is also ready to give evidence, which Sheridan's camp say could cast "serious" doubt" over the "safety of the conviction".

Ms Uygun claimed the conviction was a "miscarriage of justice" and said she was so anxious to give evidence at any appeal that she would "rugby tackle" the former MSP in order to testify that he was at the event rather than the swingers' club on the date in question. She said she did not give evidence during his perjury trial because she was grieving over the death from cancer of her husband, the Scottish folk singer Alistair Hulett.

She claimed he also met Sheridan at the meeting, on the subject of "Socialism and the Arts".

She said Sheridan was "definitely at the meeting". Ms Uygun went on: "I'm upset that I didn't have the courage to give evidence at the trial.

"My husband had died tragically and I didn't feel that I could give evidence, as the trial was going on during a date when it would have been his birthday and I was suffering from bad depression. But now I'm so enthusiastic about giving evidence to prove that Tommy was there that I'd rugby tackle him to do it, as his conviction is a miscarriage of justice.

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"Tommy was definitely at the meeting and I was chairing it when he came in and stood by the door. The topic of the meeting was arts and socialism and Tommy was there between 7:45pm and 9:30pm. There were about 20 people there.

"I wound up the meeting as it was my birthday and my husband and I were going out to dinner for my birthday. Tommy spoke to my husband and Tommy gave me a kiss for my birthday."

Ms Uygun said another reason for her not giving evidence at the trial was that she had been present in the public gallery during Sheridan's court appearances and feared that potential witnesses were not allowed to observe proceedings before testifying. Mark Gilroy has also come forward to say he was at the SSP meeting in Glasgow with the then list MSP for the city.

Mr Gilroy said he had been leafleting at the event to promote the Keir Hardie Memorial Lecture in Cumnock, at which Sheridan had been due to speak on 1 October.

Mr Gilroy, a former SSP and Solidarity activist, said: "I was leafleting at the meeting to promote this lecture Tommy was giving a few days later.

"I remember very clearly that, as we were leaving, Tommy was stood in the doorway talking to people.

"He said 'Hello' and asked how I was getting on, so there's no doubt at all that he was there.

"I was at the meeting with a friend, but we weren't there for long as we had to get the last train home.

"There can't have been more than 12 to 20 people at the event, but we were just there to promote the Keir Hardie Memorial Lecture Tommy was giving. Tommy was trying to promote the event as well, and that's what he will have been speaking to people about."

Mr Gilroy, who said he was no longer involved in politics, confirmed he would give evidence that Sheridan had been at the meeting during any appeal hearing against his former party leader's conviction.

Witnesses for the prosecution at Sheridan's trial gave evidence that the politician had not been at the SSP event.

Former SSP treasurer Allison Kane made the claim, while another witness, Katrine Trolle, said Sheridan had been in the swingers' club on that date.

The politician showed the trial his diary for that year, with the words: "SSP People's Festival. Friday-Monday. Must attend" written in the space for 27 September.

Defence witness and one-time Solidarity activist Jim Monaghan also gave evidence during Sheridan's trial that he and Mr Gilroy had travelled from their home in Cumnock to leaflet the Glasgow event to promote the lecture and that Sheridan had been there.

A source close to the Sheridan camp said the defence had not called either Mr Gilroy or Ms Uygun because they felt Mr Monaghan's evidence "had made a strong enough case" for the court to throw out the charge relating to Sheridan's attendance at the swingers' club.

Sources previously said Sheridan's appeal would also focus on the "withholding of crucial e-mails" sent between the Scottish News of the World and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.Mulcaire was jailed in 2007 after it was found he had been hacking into the phones of celebrities and other prominent people and selling the information to the newspaper.

The source said Sheridan's legal team was likely to formally launch an appeal against his perjury conviction soon after he is sentenced on 26 January.