Blow for Galloway as wife seeks divorce

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GEORGE Galloway’s bid to return to Westminster was dealt a potentially damaging blow last night after his wife issued an extraordinary series of allegations against him and declared her intention to seek a divorce.

His Palestinian-born wife, Amineh Abu-Zayyad, asked how Galloway, the former Labour MP for Glasgow Kelvin, could name his party Respect when, she claims, he did not have any respect for her.

She was reported to be preparing to contact her solicitors this week, saying she can no longer tolerate his behaviour.

The move comes after what she was said to have alleged were several telephone calls from women who said they had been involved with Galloway.

Galloway last night admitted that his marriage was in trouble but insisted no-one else was involved in the break-up. He claimed the revelation were intended to damage him ahead of Thursday’s election, blaming "new Labour circles".

His wife’s revelations could harm the maverick Scottish politician’s hopes this week of beating Labour’s Oona King in the Bethnall and Bow seat in east London, where Galloway has made a direct appeal to the area’s large Muslim population.

Galloway’s wife, who is a Muslim, was reported last night to have said: "I should tell you that when he told me his new party was going to be called Respect, I went upstairs and cried. How can he call it this when he doesn’t even treat his own wife with respect?"

The 39-year old met Galloway at a political meeting in Glasgow 14 years ago. Galloway divorced his first wife, Elaine, in 1989. "He was my hero," said Zayyad. "He did such a lot for Palestinians."

However, the Sunday Times reported that Zayyad had said the relationship had deteriorated in recent years as she became increasingly suspicious about her husband.

The newspaper reported her as saying: "I had started hearing rumours about one woman from several sources so I called her and told her the rumours were hurting me. She told me she would hang up and called me back.

"When she called me back she said George had told her he was divorcing me in order to marry her. She was 22."

Other contacts also called her to warn her about Galloway, she added. She claimed that in February this year, while on holiday in Jordan, she received a call at her mother’s house from a woman.

"She was very stressed, crying. She said she wanted to apologise for all the pain she had caused over the previous years. She asked me to forgive her. I was so upset, almost broken. I collapsed to the floor.

"An hour later, George called me and asked what ‘this crazy woman’ had said. George told me that she had asked him to marry her, but that he had refused and this was her revenge."

Zayyad reportedly claimed that Galloway had warned her to stay away from Britain until after the election. "George said it was the intelligence services, his enemies, that were trying to get to me."

Galloway last night said: "My marriage has been experiencing difficulties for quite some time. For much of the last two years my wife has been living abroad. I had hoped for a reconciliation but clearly my wife has decided otherwise. There is no other party involved. This is a private matter.

"It has clearly been raised ... to damage me in the election on Thursday and is a measure of the desperation in new Labour circles at the danger of them losing Bethnall and Bow constituency."

Galloway, 50, founded the left-wing coalition Respect after being ousted from the Labour party. The Dundee-born MP was kicked out of the party in October 2003 after accusing Tony Blair and George W Bush of acting "like wolves" by invading Iraq.

Labour chairman Ian McCartney said his comments "incited foreign forces to rise up against British troops". Galloway has maintained his expulsion was politically motivated.

He is now hoping to overturn Labour’s 10,000 majority in the multi-ethnic Bethnal Green constituency. But even before his expulsion Galloway was long seen as a thorn in the government’s side as an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq.

He condemned military action because of its effect on the people of Iraq and opposed sanctions in the country after the first Gulf War.

His reputation for activism has gone hand in hand with his oratory skills. But he has always been a controversial figure. At the age of 26 he became chair of Labour in Scotland and was elected as an MP to the House of Commons in the Tory stronghold seat of Glasgow Hillhead.

But in 1987 he faced inquiries over his financial stewardship at the charity War on Want, where he had been general secretary for four years. He was later exonerated after volunteering to repay some contested expenses.

Then in 1994 he controversially praised Saddam Hussein for his courage and strength, and visited the country in the wake of the first Gulf conflict.

On 1998, he brought an Iraqi girl, Mariam Hamza, to Glasgow for the leukaemia treatment which sanctions prevented in her native Iraq.

And in December 2004 he was awarded 150,000 in libel damages from the Daily Telegraph after he was accused of receiving money from Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.

He denied seeking or receiving money from Saddam’s government and insisted he had opposed the regime.