David Cameron's ex-media chief has been charged with perjury. Prosecutors accuse Andy Coulson of falsely denying in court any knowledge of phone hacking at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World when he was editor.
Scottish police detained Coulson at his London home on Wednesday and took him to Glasgow where he was charged with perjury. Prosecutors there said his detention came as a result of testimony he gave at a high profile case at Glasgow's High Court in 2010, in which politician Tommy Sheridan was himself convicted of perjury.
Coulson was editor of the News of the World when stories about Sheridan were published. The paper said the Scottish Socialist politician was an adulterer who went to swinger clubs.
Sheridan won a 2006 defamation case against the tabloid, but was later prosecuted for false statements he made at the time. Coulson gave witness testimony at Sheridan's 2010 perjury trial, saying he had no knowledge of phone hacking by reporters at the News of the World.
"I don't accept there was a culture of phone hacking at the News of the World," he said.
Bad headlines for Cameron
Coulson resigned from the tabloid in January 2007 after one of the paper's reporters and a private detective were jailed over phone hacking. He became communications director of Cameron's Conservative Party in July 2007 and the government's media chief when Cameron took office as prime minister, in May 2010. He quit in January 2011, under pressure over revelations of phone hacking at News of the World.
Coulson was arrested last July over phone hacking and is currently on bail in connection with the London inquiry into News of the World. Scottish prosecutors are working on their own, separate investigation into allegations of phone hacking, breaches of data protection and perjury at the tabloid.
His detention casts a negative light on Cameron, who, along with other leading politicians, appears to have had close ties to Rupert Murdoch's media empire, to which the now-defunct News of the World belonged.
"This simply reinforces the questions that are hanging over the prime minister about his judgment in appointing Andy Coulson in the first place," Ivor Gaber, professor of political journalism at City University in London, told Reuters.
"We now know that lots of people warned Cameron that this might not be an appropriate move," he added.
ncy,slk/rc (AP, Reuters, AFP)