LONDON - London Mayor Ken Livingstone launched a High Court challenge yesterday to overturn a four-week suspension from office for likening a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard.
In February, the Standards Board for England found Livingstone's comments to journalist Oliver Finegold some 12 months earlier to be "unnecessarily insensitive and offensive." The board ordered Livingstone suspended for a month beginning March 1 for bringing his office as mayor of London into disrepute. However, the High Court delayed the suspension until Livingstone's appeal could be heard.
Livingstone has refused to apologize for the remarks and said the panel that suspended him overstepped its mandate. Opening the case yesterday, Livingstone's lawyer said it was "wholly untenable" that the mayor's comments were of sufficient gravity to bring his office into disrepute.The mayor has also denied any bias against Jews.
Livingstone sparked the rumpus when Finegold identified himself as working for the Evening Standard, a paper loathed by the mayor. Livingstone asked: "What did you do? Were you a German war criminal?"
Finegold said he was Jewish and found the remarks offensive. Livingstone replied that the reporter was "like a concentration camp guard - you are just doing it because you are paid to."
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